Film Review: Oliver Stone’s ‘Savages’ Harpoons Drug War Absurdities
CHICAGO – Director Oliver Stone sees a controversy, and comments on a controversy, in his own distinctive cinematic style. The new film “Savages” is no exception, taking on the U.S./Mexican marijuana wars, with performances by Blake Lively, Taylor Kitsch, Aaron Johnson, Salma Hayek and John Travolta.
The story of intrigue and kidnapping in the marijuana trade is the surface story, underneath is Stone’s statement on how much energy, law enforcement resources and lives are used up trying to keep a product that people want out of their hands. The endgame on pot prohibition is coming – as John Travolta’s DEA character points out – but before that underground money stream is cut off, people will be tortured, shot, blown up and psychologically ruined, all in the ironic pursuit of providing an outlook altering and wholly available buzz.
Chon (Taylor Kitsch), Ben (Aaron Johnson) and Ophelia (Blake Lively) are living the pure California dream. Their luxurious beachfront home sports all the amenities three twentysomething life drifters could possibly desire. Chon is ex-military, having done tours in Iraq and Afghanistan, and his travels there determined his stateside business – the production of potent marijuana. Ben is the botanist, discovering a pot strain that is high on the high, and their in-demand product becomes the best in California. Ophelia is part of the reward, a rich girl escaping her trappings to love both men.
One of the largest Mexican pot cartels, led by the mysterious Elena (Salma Hayek), wants a piece of the California action, and threatens Chon and Ben to essentially give them part of the business. The two growers refuse, so the cartel kidnaps their precious Ophelia to convince them otherwise. This now becomes a rescue mission, involving Elena’s ruthless enforcer named Lado (Benicio Del Toro) and a hapless Drug Enforcement Agent named Dennis (John Travolta). The war is on, one that no one can win.
Photo credit: Universal Pictures