I have no use for Oliver Stone’s wrongheaded movies, and not surprisingly his latest, Savages (2012), is more interesting than truly good. It is very interesting, though, in my view; an intriguing drug-cartel drama. For the most part it is poorly written–forget the film’s dumb suggestion that there are “beautiful savages” here–but it’s dramatically sobering and visually seductive nonetheless. Or at least it’s visually seductive when it avoids Stone’s filmic pretentiousness; it is Don Mindel’s fine cinematography with its seaside colors that gives the movie its look.
Histrionically Benicio Del Toro (as a drug-trade bully), Salma Hayek (as the Baja cartel leader) and John Travolta (as a corrupt cop) carry the film. Taylor Kitsch and Blake Lively do not. Travolta gives it all he’s got, with acting that’s tough-fibered and unself-conscious. Hayek is pleasantly solemn.
David Thomson, on the Internet, is right: Savages is trashy, and not because Kitsch bares his bottom. It’s quite a sensationalistic stew. Even so, Thomson accepts the film and so do I. Reluctantly.