Oliver Stone’s Savages meshed two cinematic worlds together – gritty and unfiltered with a slick big-budget Hollywood finish. Pushing the gratuitous shirtless beach scenes with lead stars Taylor Kitsch and Aaron Taylor-Johnson onto the social media sphere was a clever move by Universal; Savages was one of the most openly sexual mainstream films I’ve seen in a long time, proudly flying the flag of polygamy in the faces of the (most-likely) couples flocking to see it. Sure, it takes balls to do that, Savages rarely does things in halves, but is it any good?
Best friends Ben (Johnson) and Chon (Kitsch) run a successful marijuana plantation where they smuggle potent seeds out of Afghanistan through to America. Along with the girl they both love and share as their lover, Ophelia (Blake Lively), the two live out their carefree, money-soaked days in Laguna Beach, hoping one day to leave the drug world behind. Mexican drug cartel enforcer Lado (Benicio Del Toro) strikes a deal with the two in an attempt to take over their successful business ‘venture’, forcing Ben and Chon to flee to Indonesia to escape the drug world after all. They never quite make it there, though. Who says Mexican drug lords go down without a fight?
The wise-cracking power struggle between the cartel leader Elena (the superb Salma Hayek, wearing what is probably the best onscreen wig I’ve seen in years) and Lado alongside some impeccable casting in Taylor-Johnson, Kistch and John Travolta as crooked DEA Dennis give the film a much-needed something, but Gossip Girl alum Blake Lively’s inclusion as Ophelia at times seems wasted. They took flawless socialite Serena Van Der Woodsen off the Upper East Side, put her in a violent, racy drama and kept her locked up as a clichéd prisoner whose hair and makeup seemingly never suffers even when being held hostage by a Mexican drug cartel? It looks like it might take a few more films for Lively to find her stride.
Will the cinemagoers care though? Probably not. With enough sun, surf and sex appeal as it has, Savages will most likely be the top pick for a springtime cinema romp.