Saturday, February 15, 2014

SAVAGES (2012)

Directed By: Oliver Stone 
Written By: Oliver Stone, Shane Salerno & Don Winslow 
Based on the novel by: Don Winslow 
Cinematography By: Daniel Mindel 
Editor: Joe Hutshing, Stuart Levy & Alex Marquez 

 Cast: Blake Lively, Taylor Kitsch, Aaron Taylor-Johnson, John Travolta, Benecio Del Toro, Shea Whigham, Demian Bichir, Salma Hayeck, Emile Hirsch, Joel David Moore, Ali Wong

In California, the former Navy SEAL Chon and his best friend, the peaceful botanist Ben, are successful entrepreneurs producing and dealing high-quality weed. Chon brought seeds from Afghanistan and Ben used his knowledge to develop the best marijuana in the country. Chon and Ben share the pothead lover Ophelia and she loves both of them since they complete each other - Chon is a powerful and strong lover and Ben is a sensible and loving lover. Their comfortable life changes when the Mexican Baja Cartel demands a partnership in their business. Chon and Ben refuse the deal and the leader of the cartel Elena sends her right-arm in America, Lado, to abduct Ophelia to press the American drug dealers. Chon and Ben ask the support of the dirty DEA Agent Dennis and get inside information to begin a secret war against the Baja Cartel to release Ophelia

I will admit when I first saw the advertisements for this film when it came out. I had no interest and even bad mouthed it with my prediction of what type of film I theft it was, now that I have seen it. I proved to be what I predicted, but also a lot better than I thought.

It still has a haziness of feeling exploitive at times as what could have been a simple cut and dry story seems to take time and go off to indulge it's seediness. Like a spice though it is what gives the film it's flavor. Sure it's fattening yet you have a good time savoring it.

Oliver Stone began working on the screenplay adaptation before the book was published. So confidant he was of this story that he himself contributed to investing in the project

Take for instance Benecio Del Toro's character we have seen him murder as butcher people then just to throw in some more nastiness we have to throw in a rape. Why we get it he has no morals it feels like unnecessary overkill. There are many scenes like that, which feel more of an indulgence and dips into exploitive territory with numerous sex scenes and graphic violence that is necessary at times but feels like the film I taking a huge pleasure in bathing in.

Which makes me wonder about the film’s director Oliver Stone, Who makes a comeback to the types of films we are more used to from him. His more recent films have been more sanitized and straight laced focusing more on politics and society and barely reaching a rating of pg-13. Here he makes a film that is a hard R and while having something to say about society this is more an action crime story with a unconventional love story thrown in. He has always been a fan of rapid editing and different camera stocks. Here with this film it makes me wonder of he went over the top to make a return and show he still has it or is It a case of an older filmmaker trying to impress younger filmgoers and show off. Just as I wonder does he have add. when it comes to the editing no time for the slow stuff we have to keep moving or show something interesting. Even though the film is over two hours long.

Though this is a return to his more excessive indulgent films. It still doesn't fully feel like an Oliver stone film it reminded me more of the late tony Scott more type of film. Though The film is right up Stone's alley as a kind of summer action film with his sensibilities.

The film is a strange mix as it has a camera ready almost WB teen channel cast of characters and transports them into an adult trashy tawdry novel. It's a strange mash- up that works and is acknowledged as most of the leads are really successful beach bum hippies awoken to a nasty criminal underworld.

The cast does well even Blake Lively, who works well as a California version of a Femme Fatale. Though her voice over gets annoying in parts and her character is spoiled but the movie asks us to look at her as deep. It fits her spoiled character.

Jennifer Lawrence was originally cast as O, but pulled out in order to star in The Hunger Games. Before Blake Lively was cast, Olivia Wilde, Abbie Cornish, Amber Heard and Teresa Palmer were considered, and Lindsay Lohan expressed interest.

I like that the film ultimately shows the cartels as evil, but at least puts them as having human emotions and desires. Giving Salma Hayek a role she can finally sink her teeth into and making her truly a vital part of a film and not just window dressing. Playing a motherly Villain who in her own way is doing the right thing, but if you get on her wrong side she can be vicious.

The character of Elena is loosely based on Mireya Moreno Carreon who's known to be the first Mexican female boss cartel.

Uma Thurman was cast as Paqu, O's mother but her scenes were cut from the movie.

As a minority I can look at the film as a sort of feel good Film. Where some Caucasians start a business and soon as some minorities want to buy in they refuse. Feeling disrespected they force a business merger and the Caucasians decide to fight back and even though the minorities he been doing this for decades and are trained and depraved these two Caucasians manage to take them down for the most par as a personal revenge. That is one way of looking at it

The film offers visceral and is perfect as long as you don't look too deeply or think too hard about it. It feels as I Oliver stone is overdoing it here Amping up the sex and violence to show he still has it and can keep up with the younger generation and talent. Which makes the film feel like it's overcompensating. He makes it dirty and dingy it already had a tawdriness that makes the story. Which at times reaches for spiritual as well as political more exploitive then anything. It feels overstuffed.

It also has some kind of logical twist that has only really been seen before in the film DOMINO where you give the audience one ending/scenerio then rewind and tell us hat we watched was false to a degree then a whole new ending scene is presented. Like a deleted scene being edited back in like the film CLUE with multiple endings but at least CLUE explains itself here it just happens for little real reason other than to be a spectacle. One of my favorite films does the same FUNNY GAMES the original version but again it makes sense why it happens in that film as it involves the message of the film and fits the tone. In this film no real reason other than to toy with the audience.

This is Oliver Stone 's first film in nearly 17 years to be photographed with Panavision anamorphic lenses. After NIXON, his 2.35:1 films were cropped to that ratio via shooting in Super 35. He was convinced to return to anamorphic by cinematographer Daniel Mindel, who has shot all of his features except DOMINO in the format. Mindel told Stone during their first meeting that if the plan was to shoot in Super 35 or digitally, then he wasn't the right man for the job.

I liked it a little ashamed that i did, but I believe an audience will find all they expect and more in this film. Which is never boring, but grasps for too much at times. As it wants to be all things to all people. Especially with a third act that seems inspired or borrowed from Richard Kelly (Donnie DARKO)

Ultimately it is a film not really about anything but it is a fun brutal ride

 Grade: B-

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