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John Reviews “Savages”

I know I’m way behind on these, so I’m going to try and update over my “Christmas Break”. First up, was Literary Adaptation Month,.

For those who automatically think “conspiracy-theory” when you hear the name Oliver Stone, the 2012 film Savages reminds us that Stone is the same director that brought us Natural Born Killers and U-Turn. And wherever mental place Oliver Stone went in directing Natural Born Killers and U-Turn, he has returned to in order to bring us Savages.

Savages is part-love story, part-crime drama. It tells the story of three lovers: Chon (Taylor Kitsch of Friday Night Lights) and Ben (Aaron Johnson of Angus, Thongs and Perfect Snogging) who have managed to concoct the greatest strain of marijuana on the market. They both love, and are loved by O (Blake Lively of Gossip Girl). In a way, Chon and Ben are two sides of the same coin. Chon is the angry vet who has the “Kill Them All, Let God Sort Them Out” mentality, while Ben wants to save the world.

Life is good for our three lovers, until a Mexican drug cartel, headed by Elena (Salma Hayek of Frida) wants to muscle in on their territory, and force the pair to go into business with them, and aren’t afraid to let a little thing like a body count get in the way. Chon and Ben decide to flee the country but before they can, O is kidnapped by the cartel. Rather than just give up or cut their losses (that being O), Ben and Chon decide to go to war with the cartel.

Savages is based on the book by the same name by Don Winslow, which I picked up over the summer. I didn’t realize it until I did some research but Winslow also wrote “Satori” which I read a year or so ago and really enjoyed. (I think I nominated it for a Sammy.) The film is pretty true to the novel, but I would suggest the book is slightly better. One advantage the film does have over the book is Blake Lively’s portrayal of O. In the film, O comes off as smarter and more street-wise than the Valley Girl that the book makes her out to be.

This film turned up on a couple of “Worst Films of 2012” list and while Savages isn’t a classic, I think it has been demeaned for the same reason a lot of Stone’s films are: they just aren’t for everyone. For all the dirt and grit, blood and violence, Savages was a gripping tale where you want everything to turn out all right in the end for the protagonists. I won’t play spoiler, but you’ll have to watch the film to find out. I will say that once you start watching, much like when you start reading the novel, you’ll find yourself committed to making your way through to the end.

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