Is Savages a relevant satire or a teen wet dream?
Savages is an odd, mildly unpleasant film that feels like the strange half-sibling of the amoral Irish slaughter porn that is The Boondock Saints. Which means it’s the kind of post-Tarantino fare that was served up in huge gory spoonfuls throughout the 90s and early 00s, managing to peter out only when it was apparent that Tarantino himself had moved on to different, if not greener, pastures.
Directed by Oliver Stone, who appears to be in his Natural Born Killers mode throughout, the film follows Chon (Taylor Kitsch), Ben (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) and O (Blake Lively), a trio of 20-somethings involved in a three way relationship of love and lust.
Chon, a veteran of the Afghan war, and Ben, a flip flop sporting Buddhist, are in business as the suppliers of California’s best marijuana. When they refuse to do business with a Mexican drug cartel fronted by bewigged femme Elena (Salma Hayek), O is kidnapped in order to ensure their compliance. This leads to a sometimes frantic, sometimes laid back quest to rescue her, all while peripheral characters including Benicio del Toro’s moustachioed mental Lado and John Travolta’s crooked DEA agent Dennis dance to their own rhythms at the edge of the narrative.
Savages is occasionally injected with some vaguely satirical nods to contemporary geopolitical concerns, but these tend to be delivered via laughable lines spouted by the likes of semi-narrator O (“He thought he could fuck the war out of himself. I had orgasms. He had wargasms.”)
A simile involving the BP oil spill feels equally silly and incredibly stale. It’s difficult to do on point satire in any movie unless the whole world of the film is constructed towards this end. Savages is just guns, drugs and fucking interspersed with Travolta occasionally muttering something about the recession.
Contrasted with Killing Them Softly, which is a little less heavy handed with its cultural barbs and a little more grounded in reality, Savages looks like a delirious teen wet dream, thrashing itself into nothing but a sweaty residue on unwashed sheets.
At 131 minutes long, with an ending that may as well have been “Fuck you, Shakespeare” written in shit on the side of a McDonalds, Savages isn’t really worth seeing. It would be easier to like the characters if they were consistent or recognisably human. But they aren’t. And you don’t really need to watch it.