Thursday, October 04, 2012

Say you, say me, say him


                Many speak of "Savages" as Oliver Stone's return to form. It certainly looks that way at first glance. Gritty, violent story about Chon and Ben, two drug dealers trying to rescue their mutual girlfriend O from the hands of the Mexican mafia powered with such stars as John Travolta, Benicio Del Toro and Salma Hayek as well as youngsters Blake Lively, Taylor Kitsch and Aaron Taylor-Johnson in leading roles. But then I became sceptical. Oliver Stone hasn't made a noteworthy movie (documentaries aside) for more than fifteen years and the other writers don't have appealing resumes (one of them, Don Winslow, is also the author of the book which the movie is based on, but writing a good book doesn't mean you can write a good screenplay). Still, I couldn't help hoping this one would be a hit so I went to watch it.

                And what a hit it was. A succession of hits, actually. It first hit me with useless and badly done narration by O, the girl who gets kidnapped. Then it hit me again with really bad characterization.  All the characters are just a pack of clichés, without an ounce of personality in them, doing whatever is necessary for the story to progress. Another hit. Acting. I must admit the actors weren't given much to work with but some of the blame lies on them too. Blake Lively is awful as a spoiled addict O and Taylor Kitsch isn't much better as PTSD-suffering Chon. even the pros like Travolta and Del Toro seem like they don't know what they are doing. Travolta plays Dennis, a DEA agent so corrupt and double-crossing, I don't know how he manages to remember which side is he on at any given moment, and Del Toro plays a professional killer who likes to torture people and rape girls. Bearing that in mind, their acting is straightforward comedic. And here is where the final hit comes in. Screenplay. It's so poorly written that you wonder how did they even get it filmed. You get the feeling that the tone of the movie is supposed to be serious but then, out of the blue, happens something undeniably parodic. It is maybe intentionally so, but it makes the movie very uneven and just doesn't work. Not to mention completely unnecessary and incomprehensible decisions like revealing Elena has a daughter in the beginning of the movie and crossing her with O while shopping in some mall. What purpose does that have? It just lets us conclude what will happen later in the movie thus removing any suspense. Or showing us Elena getting close with O to make nothing of it and simply discard it a few minutes later. There's just no sense in most of the things in this movie.

                What's even worse, the movie doesn't seem to have an answer to the most important question. What is the point of it? Why do we have to sit and watch it for over two hours? What does it tell us? It seems there is no point. The most corrupted guys end up as winners while our ménage à trois moves to some exotic place and, in O's words, regress to living some kind of primal, savage life (although savages didn't have bathing suits from what I recall). So okay, they're all savages. Or we're all savages? Is that what the movie is trying to tell us? Does it have a point after all? Maybe. The problem is that it just doesn't make you care.

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