Oliver Stone’s film, ‘Savages’, from the book of the same name by Don Winslow, is great. There is no two ways about it. It shows life on both sides of the tracks in sunny California and then over the border in Tijuana, Mexico. The scenery is fantastic too, beautifully photographed by Dan Mindel with anamorphic lenses.
But let’s not forget that this film is about drug dealers and the affluent lifestyles some of them can afford with their ill-gotten gains. These people are making tens of millions of dollars from other people’s misery and you only need to look at how they live to feel part envy and part horror.
Yes, there are the luxury California houses and the big cars but what a brutal life it is and you do wonder how they can live with themselves. The way they deal with their rivals is sickening to the extreme and that is when you think that maybe your life isn’t so bad after all. Besides, not all that are involved in the drug trade live in such splendour and we can see that from life over the border in Mexico.
Chon and Ben are the two dealers in this film, played by Taylor Kitsch and Aaron Johnson, respectively. They have a nice little ménage-a-trois going with O, played by Blake Lively. They are all perfectly content with each other and life in general except for one thing. They have been doing massive drug deals for the Baja Cartel in Mexico but, having made their fortune, they want to get out of the business.
This doesn’t go down well with the Cartel who want to expand Chon and Ben’s business. So the Cartel decides to kidnap O, with the help of dodgy DEA agent, Dennis, played by John Travolta. This is to try and persuade Chon and Ben to change their minds, of course. But the power of love should never be under-estimated and our two ‘heroes’ do love O in their own ways.
It is a violent film, in fact extremely violent in parts, but it is necessary to the plot, as they say. And if you are wondering who the savages of the title are, well, it is practically all the characters in the film. There is a dark humour to it all but maybe not enough to detract away from the violent theme of the film. It is strange to see the change in Ben, who is basically a pacifist, as he changes into psychopathic killer.
Salma Hayek is the boss of the Cartel and the way she makes tough men crawl and cower is a sight to relish. Benicio Del Toro is great as the most ruthless and horrible Cartel member. The film is shot in a mixture of black and white and colour and also a mixture of Spanish and English. The subtitles are also excellent by the way. This, and the classical music soundtrack, just adds to the tension