DIRECTED BY Oliver Stone
STARS Taylor Kitsch, Blake Lively
PRISON FOOD: Drug lord Elena (Salma Hayek, left) shares a meal with her captive O (Blake Lively) in Savages. (Photo: François Duhamel / Universal)
Ridley Scott never cared for it. Neither, for that matter, did Harrison Ford. It was the studio that insisted on the voice-over narration by Ford's character in Blade Runner, as a way to help connect the story line's knotty dots. To this day, that voice-over remains a love-it-or-hate-it proposition for the film's devotees (count me among the cheerleaders, finding Ford's weary drone adding significantly to the future noir atmosphere). It's doubtful such similar disagreement will surround the v.o. in director Oliver Stone's Savages, as I imagine everyone will hate the incessant blabber that clogs up the soundtrack like so much hair coagulating deep down the shower drain.
The narrator of this nitwit claptrap is Ophelia (Blake Lively), who long ago shortened her name to O to avoid comparisons to Shakespeare's tragic heroine. Not coming across as particularly well-read, O doubtless did not realize that she now shared her name with the title character from Anne Desclos' controversial Histoire d'O (The Story of O), the erotic tale about sadomasochism. This new designation makes more sense, however, since Savages' characters practice sadism in their dealings with one another while viewers have to be masochistic to sit through this torturous affair.
Taylor "Kiss of Death" Kitsch, the star of 2012 mega-bombs John Carter and Battleship, snags top billing but is only part of a large ensemble, meaning any potential fallout from this potential flop won't further damage his already precarious A-list standing. He and Kick-Ass star Aaron Johnson play Chon and Ben, two California dudes responsible for cultivating the best marijuana in the entire world (America, fuck yeah!). Their wacky weed is so awesome, in fact, that a Mexican drug kingpin — uh, queenpin? — named Elena (Salma Hayek) insists on merging their operations, a proposal the boys shoot down. This displeases Elena, so she sends her top enforcer, Lado (Benicio Del Toro), to kidnap the boys' shared lady love, O, in an effort to force them to cooperate. O no! How will the bad-ass Chon manage to chill long enough to formulate a sensible plan? How will the Buddha-spouting, go-green Ben be able to channel enough Rambo to kill when necessary? How does Demián Bichir, an Oscar nominee this year for A Better Life, feel about going from playing an undocumented worker full of dignity and grace to essaying the role of a slimy lawyer whose torture scene reduces him to looking like Sloth from The Goonies? And, most importantly, when did John Travolta's noggin take the shape of a bowling ball?
FAST FOOD: Corrupt DEA agent Dennis (John Travolta) wheels and deals with Ben (Aaron Johnson) and Chon (Taylor Kitsch) in Savages. (Photo: François Duhamel / Universal)
Yes, Travolta's in this turkey, as a cheerfully corrupt DEA agent playing both sides. He's far more engaging than the three youthful leads, as are Hayek and Del Toro (even if the latter's character comes off as a poor man's Anton Chigurh). The talented Emile Hirsch (Into the Wild, Milk) has a small part as a manic associate of Ben and Chon, and it's a shame he wasn't cast in one of the leading roles, as he would have provided some much-needed energy.
Savages is based on the novel by Don Winslow, who co-wrote the screenplay with Stone and Shane Salerno. It should be noted that no less than Michael Bay once called Salerno's work on the script for Armageddon "brilliant." Coming from a filmmaker like Bay, that's mighty worthless praise indeed. At any rate, not having read Winslow's novel, it's difficult to ascertain who deserves the lion's share of the blame for not only the atrocious cop-out ending that left the preview audience groaning (and, remember, these recipients of free movie passes generally like everything) but also the ghastly dialogue that dogs the picture every time O feels the need to share her inner monologues. Viewer agony begins right near the start, as she describes her boffing sessions with the battle-scarred Chon: "I had orgasms; he had 'wargasms.'"
Yow. Haven't Writers Guild of America memberships been revoked for less?