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Two drug dealers find out the Mexican cartel means business in this tale of sex, blood and marijuana
Taylor Kitsch, Blake Lively and Aaron Johnson are living the good life until a Mexican cartel breaks up their marijuana ring. <<© 2012 Universal Pictures >>


Ben (Aaron Johnson: Albert Nobbs) and Chon (Taylor Kitsch: Battleship) are two California boys who made it big in a volatile market. No, they’re not investment bankers. This pair of best buds grows the greatest ganja in the world. 
    Ben is a brilliant botanist and businessman who believes in Buddhist philosophies and letting problems go. Chon is a former Navy SEAL who believes in beating any problem into a bloody pulp. With Chon in charge of the less savory parts of the business, Ben is free to travel the world accomplishing his philanthropic dreams. 
    The boys share a business, an apartment and a girlfriend, all without an ounce of jealousy. The girl in question is O (Blake Lively: Gossip Girl), a blonde beach babe who narrates this tale in tones so spacey it’s clear she shares the boys’ love for marijuana. 
    This idyllic life is shattered when the Baja Mexican cartel decides to move in on their territory. Ruthless jeffe Elena (Salma Hayek: Puss in Boots) has her most vicious enforcer Lado (Benicio Del Toro: The Wolfman) kidnap O. 
    Now the boys must decide how far they will go to get their love back. Ben must choose whether to embrace the violence of the business, while Chon chooses which gun to bring. 
    Savages is director Oliver Stone’s (Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps) dramatic return to form, featuring the style and brutality that’s been missing from his films the past decade. 
    Based on a book by co-screenwriter Don Winslow, Savages is a film that lacks the courage of its brash convictions. While the story features amoral people doing amoral things, the movie chickens out, offering an ending substantially happier than the grim book. 
    The biggest problem with Savages is the characters. Del Toro turns in a deliciously depraved performance as the most amoral man in Mexico. Hayek is commanding as the only woman in the movie who seems to have her own agency. Even John Travolta’s turn as a corrupt DEA agent overshadows the film’s leads, who get one-note roles. Johnson is perpetually doe-eyed, while Kitsch admirably keeps his eyes as wide as possible to look feral and crazy. 
    The character of O is most problematic. She suffers from Bella Swan syndrome, meaning that the movie makes no effort to explain what’s so special about this girl. She shops, she looks good in (and out of) a bikini and she doesn’t mind being a kept woman. But she’s nearly indistinguishable from all the other California blondes Stone lovingly films soaking up the sun in teeny bikinis.
    Even when in mortal danger, O acts like a spoiled princess, snotting to her captors that she wants salads instead of pizza, a toothbrush, and would someone clean her cell? Bargaining chip or no, it’s hard to believe a cartel that would decapitate a room full of men would put up with this sniveling brat.
    In spite of the insipid narration and cop-out ending, the film is an encouraging step in the right direction for Stone. Savages might not fully live up to its brutal name, but it shows that a once-great director might still have some artistic bite. 

Fair Drama • R • 130 mins.