What makes someone bad? Is it illegal activities or immoral ones? If you do harm to others in the spirit of righting wrongs were your actions justifiable? These are the type of questions that reside in the moments between outrageous violence in Oliver Stone’s new movie Savages.
Ben (Aaron Johnson) and Chon (Taylor Kitsch) seem an unlikely pair on the surface. Ben is a globetrotting, hippie do-gooder and Chon is a former Navy SEAL. What holds them together is their love of marijuana and Ophelia (Blake Lively) with whom they are both openly knockin’ boots. As a powerful Mexican drug cartel starts pushing in to the US there is nothing that the evil boss (Salma Hayek) and her right-hand (Benicio Del Toro) won’t do to take Ben and Chon’s business, including kidnapping Ophelia. Ben and Chon will hurt whoever it takes to get her back including a shady federal agent (John Travolta).
While the leads are good, the movie is elevated by two things; a script that shows characters struggling with their own morals (and at times mortality) and the performances of the supporting cast. Ben is a peaceful person by nature and is obviously the brains of the operation, but as things go south so too does Ben’s hold on the rudder of the “Ben and Chon Marijuana Business”. As he relinquishes control and Chon’s explosive personality takes over, things quickly go downhill.
John Travolta gives another (hopefully) career resurrecting performance as the dirty DEA agent that is secretly attempting to play both sides against each other. Benicio Del Toro is devilishly good as Lado who is perhaps the most evil character the actor has ever portrayed. You can see the gears turn in his brain as he wistfully turns his mustache.
While I wasn’t crazy about the narration from Blake Lively’s character, Savages is a very welcomed return for Oliver Stone, and let’s be honest, Hollywood is more interesting when he is involved.