'Savages' Review By Bryan Yentz

... "I have orgasms. . . Chon, has wargasms." Yes. This is an actual line from the film. No. It is not played for laughs...
  • OVERALL
    1.0
    HORRIBLE
  • Story
  • Acting
  • Directing
  • Visuals
"I have orgasms. . . Chon, has wargasms."

Yes. This is an actual line from the film.

No. It is not played for laughs.

And Shakespeare wept. . .

When a film begins with such a pretentious line of monotone narration, my immediate interest in a film takes a sudden plunge into "Really?" territory. Not only does such a simple line of poor dialogue form a foundation for the poor script to follow, it establishes the exact kind of character(s) you'll be dealing with for the next two hours; characters in which the mentioning of a "wargasm" is their attempt at being deep and meaningful.

Directed by Oliver Stone, SAVAGES is an extremely by-the-numbers thriller following the exploits of two very different drug running organizations. While one is dedicated to the peaceful side of dealing and growing (our protagonists), the other--led by a miscast Salma Hayek--is fueled by violence and inhumanity. When Ben and Chon (Aaron Johnson and Taylor Kitsch) refuse to partner with Elena (Hayek) and her psychopathic followers, she abducts the one thing that matters most to them, Blake Lively, oh, I'm sorry, "O". . . Yes, her name is "O". . . And yes, give yourself a pat on the back if you believe this relates to a certain Shakespearean play as well. Anyways, with "O" now missing, the drug-dealing duo arm themselves and organize hit after blackmail after explosive attack on Elena and her corporation of opiates.

If you think any of that sounds interesting, you'd be half right. While a storyline such as this would infer numerous set pieces of unrepentant carnage (as the trailer, MPAA rating, and knock-off ARMY OF TWO imagery would have you believe), the actual narrative is rather bereft of frenetic shoot-outs, intense gunplay and earth-shaking explosions. Actually, only about twenty minutes of the over two hour run-time is actually dedicated to the brutal bits, and when they finally do rear their head, are rather bland and forgettable. Most of the story is split between developing Chon, Ben and their unified exploits to rescue "O", watching Salma Hayek try and act evil and observing Benicio Del Toro slither about the screen as the film's most vile character, Lado (and dammit if the man doesn't nail his sickening, love-to-hate-him role).

Since the subject matter herein is comprised of EVERY drug-themed-thriller before it, Stone tries desperately to add a layer of spastic direction and editing to dissuade from the fact that not a whole lot is actually going on in the film. The acid-washed aesthetics feel more akin to a Tony Scott film like DOMINO rather than something with an Oliver Stone name attached to it. While I actually dug such an energetic approach to depicting the film's content, it nonetheless amounted to a "so what?" since all of the intense visual cues parallel such uninteresting on-screen material. All of the technical flair simply rings hollow when everything it's created for is so uninvolving.

While the villainous side of SAVAGES definitely makes you yearn for some form of comeuppance (mainly due to Del Toro's unapologetically vile display as Elena's right hand), the "heroes" herein are obnoxious, entitled, rich-kids with perfect lives, devoid of actual work or responsibility. They appear and act as though they've been ripped from the newest season of MTV's "THE HILLS". Thus, watching them bitch and moan about life and "how unfair it is" becomes grating and monotonous. Taylor Kitsch hasn't turned off his "John Carter" since it bombed at the box-office and is once again constantly on edge; always yearning for a fight. Juxtaposing him is Aaron Johnson who is just a massive p*ssy, and Blake Lively. . . Well, she simply can't act. But she does have big boobs, so, uh. . . That counts for something? Ultimately, who cares? As characters, they question themselves, their motives and their sins, but they never actually grow from them. They're the same people at the end of the film as they are at the beginning. . . Except, "O", who seems a bit more indifferent, I guess, judging from her last, yawn-inducing monologue. They're simply "characters" Frankensteined from a rusted barrel of "Vapid, Stereotypical Protagonist Traits".

What's all the more befuddling is the way that SAVAGES ends. . . Or, doesn't end, actually. . .

***SPOILER ALERT***

What begins as a much-deserved climax of bullets and blood-shed literally STOPS and rewinds itself.

Again, I'm serious.

Just as the narrative meets an appropriately bleak conclusion, everything fades to black and white and the grating, soulless voice of Blake Lively cuts the silence like a dull knife. At this point, her vapid characters states, "Or, at least that's how I thought it would end. . ." and then, the entire last five minutes of action is rewound and restarted. Meaning, nothing of what you just witnessed actually happened. Villains didn't meet the receiving end of vigilante justice, our leads didn't go out in a glorious display of close-quarter gunfire, snipers didn't dash heads with .50 caliber rounds. . . None of that actually happened. So what does? A climax affined to everything else; one that is dull, empty, and absolutely "meh". What's hilariously worse is that the story's most repugnant character--a rapist, torturing, child-killing, head-chainsawing, face-whipping antagonist--makes it out scot-free with the most promising of undeserved outcomes! "Realism" my ass.

And why the hell would a captive take the time to fantasize about her death AS she's being rescued, anyway?

That gets another, "Really?" in my book.

***END SPOILER***

As if knowing the audience would expect an action-oriented end to all of the madness, Stone sought to satiate such viewers with one ending, while making "sense" of all of the back-stabbing and betrayal with another. In turn, he's robbed both parties as there's simply no call for a "Gotcha!" finish. This isn't an M. Night flick and it's not a script which has consistently toyed with the audience so as to make one think that reality might be screwed with by the questionable climax.

There are morsels of entertaining elements to be had here, like a quirky exchange between Del Toro and Travolta, as well as some skin-crawling scenes of grisly imagery, but the entire experience just feels like an homage to the notion of "been there, done that". As if Stone and co. were afraid to make anything new and exciting so they settled with mediocrity. I mean, I'm not asking for two hours worth of ingenuity, but at least deliver your final presentation in a compelling way. Earnest direction and storytelling can more than make up for a lack of creativity. I mean, just look at something like SMOKIN' ACES. It's a meager story about assassins trying to kill a single person, yet Joe Carnahan directs and paces it with such flair that the linearity of the plot and characters don't matter.

While SAVAGES had potential as a guilty pleasure; one which could have rode the wave of its own ridiculousness, it ultimately plays itself far too seriously and thinks itself--like an MTV brat--far cooler and hipper than it actually is. SAVAGES isn't terrible, but sure as hell has some immensely questionable aspects and a story structure which is built from sheer imitation. If you want a flick that involves many of the same elements herein, but delivers it with panache, wit, humor and absolute gusto, check out Mel Gibson's recent escapade, GET THE GRINGO. Regardless, pompous critics are already praising SAVAGES, but overall, I found it to be an uninspired concoction of everything before it; one that adds nothing new to the well-worn formula (let alone anything memorable).

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Comments (23)

  1. Zak Lee Ferguson

    Hahaha @bryanyentz what a great opening! I myself liked it- was not head over heels blown over- the thing that i admire about Stone is he doesn't give a sh*t about creative integrity- he can make one crap one and one good one- this tries to intermingle so much from his previous work, but with a unfulfilled script and actors who look wooden and blank like they should be parked upon a hill over looking the oceanic scene he feels obligated to skim over- I find it hard to endure but it was not terrible. Just abnormal crap!

    2 years agoby @Zak-Lee-FergusonFlag

  2. Bryan Yentz

    @XxNickTheFilmCriticXx,

    Haha, awesome, man. Yeah, see it first because my review has spoilers (since many pf the plot-related points are what I took issue with).

    2 years agoby @bryanyentzFlag

  3. Nicholaus XX

    @bryanyentz -- Ah, all right. Yeah, I can completely understand that perspective, and it's nice to see someone that is as critical - if not more so - than I.

    Which is exactly why the rating is a little on the odd side. Hey, no problem, man! I'll read your "The Dark Knight Rises" review as soon as I see the movie, which might be a while from now(not for sure). So, don't think anything of it if I don't comment on your review. ;)

    2 years agoby @XxNickTheFilmCriticXxFlag

  4. Bryan Yentz

    @XxNickTheFilmCriticXx,

    haha, thanks, man!

    And no, no disrespect at all, man. Um, my score is based as a whole. I don't average. . . Most of the time. To me, PARTS may be well done, but as a WHOLE, it all needs to come together. Think of it like a videogame; it might look amazing, sound incredible, but play like crap. So while the visuals and sound may be perfect 10's, the gameplay may be completely broken and ruin the entire experience, thus rendering the whole thing with a lower score, despite the 10's it might have received for its parts.

    And I agree, a good deal of critics may not be basing their opinions on actors. And another good point of yours is that they may still be giving a "fresh" review despite giving it a 6 which is mediocre. Good point, man. And again, thanks for reading. Always dig our discussions.

    2 years agoby @bryanyentzFlag

  5. Nicholaus XX

    @bryanyentz -- Outstanding review, man. I watched some clips of this movie, and a "in-character" interview. Needless to say, she was devoid of any acting abilities. Throughout the duration, I saw a faint smile on her face. Yes, a faint smile. A faint smile from a character that has been kidnapped, and beaten(?).

    @narrator -- Which is why I would have to respectfully disagree with you. Sure, she might've just been seemingly bad for this movie, and this movie only. But, she's not that great in Gossip Girl, so....

    I haven't seen "The Town", yet. But, I heard she was okay in that one.

    @bryanyentz -- Back to the review. I'm really loving the humor, man - especially the "Blake Lively. . . Well, she simply can't act. But she does have big boobs, so, uh. . . That counts for something?" bit. You did - however - confuse me at the closing of your review, but maybe it's just because you have a different rating system? Which gauges the question, how do you rate movies, and what does each rating mean, if you don't mind me asking?

    Commenting on the critics bit; it really depends. Some "critics" might rate a film highly just because it was surprisingly decent, or because it was littered with celebrities. But, with all due respect, I highly doubt a bulk of them tend to rate movies highly because of the actors and actresses the film beholds. There may be "positive" reviews on Rotten Tomatoes, but that's only because they might've given it a 6/10 - which is just above mediocre, and qualifies as an "okay" movie. So, again, it's really tough to say.

    I hope I didn't sound disrespectful, and I hope this turns out to be a "decent" - at bare minimum - discussion.

    2 years agoby @XxNickTheFilmCriticXxFlag

  6. Bryan Yentz

    @felipe-11

    While I understand each character's role and what they were SUPPOSED to, I wasn't sold on any of it. Blake Lively's "O"--which I indirectly mention in the review stands for "Ophelia", Kitch's Chon, Johnson's Ben--I gather what these roles were trying to do, but they're all so annoyingly stereotypical of the genre that it all just renders a "what's the point?" You have a collection of protagonists who--again as I mentioned in the review--feel as though they're mere composites of other characters from other films. Stone and his writers seemed to watch every drug/action flick before and stated, "We need a tough-as-nails good guy, and a typical, weak-but-smart foil of a buddy to balance him out. And then we need a chick that's a whor*-not-a-whor* to bring 'em together and cause some jealousy and villains who act pompous and live elegant lives but are really actually desp*cable!" There was zero ingenuity to the characters and what made it worse was that--outside of Benicio, who was wonderfully vile--none of the actors (to me) brought anything to the roles in terms of acting ability or even presence--especially that of Blake Lively who appeared as though she was reading a cue-card the entire time.

    And yes, I was expecting something. I was expecting it be worthwhile. I expected it to not be pretentious, to have solid acting and characters across the board, to be entertaining, to deliver on its hyperbolic rating, to deliver what its trailer promised, to deliver what a triple-A production with limitless funds and an A-list case should offer; something either dramatically endearing or mindlessly entertaining. Instead, the film plays as ostentatious menagerie of stereotypes for an MTV crowd.

    But yeah, thanks for reading man, I gather a lot of people like--and will like it. But I felt as though it was one big piece of talk with nothing to walk about. Critics are going to praise with the logic of "Big names are attached to it, therefore it must be good" as they did with Prometheus. I just feel the genre has far better material within this genre that fit into both categories that SAVAGES failed at: either dramatic and satirical or mindlessly entertaining and violent.

    Thanks again for reading man.

    2 years agoby @bryanyentzFlag

  7. Replicant

    Good review, even though I really liked it and I disagree, it was a nice read.

    It just sounds like you were expecting this to be something it wasn't, and in return you beat every one of its weaknesses and gave it one star just to balance out some of the good reviews it got.

    I actually thought the entire cast was the film's main strength. Benicio del Toro was obviously the standout, but Taylor Kitsch does a good job (probably his best role so far), Blake Lively (who's name btw is "Ophelia") plays the "dumb rich California beach girl" so well that its easy to mistake her for her actual character. Travolta does what he does best, Johnson is a likable "good guy" that needs to "p*ssy out" for his character to work. Hayek balances out the bitch-boss cartel leader and the caring mother when she needs to.

    Just my view. Again nice review, but way too harsh IMO.

    2 years agoby @felipe-11Flag

  8. Bryan Yentz

    @corey,

    Yeah, I think it just might get crushed under the weight of ol' Spidey (which is a decent distraction). Thanks for reading, man!

    @forrestgump1,

    Yeah, I've been witnessing other critics reviews, but bear in mind, some of those critics are the same guys who gave the Smurfs and crap like that positive reviews. Let me know what ya think about it if ya see it. And thanks for reading!

    2 years agoby @bryanyentzFlag

  9. Forrestgump1

    I still really wanna see this so i probably will..good review..and this is shocking cause its rocking solid reviews from critics right now.

    2 years agoby @forrestgump1Flag

  10. Forrestgump1

    @corey Accident.

    2 years agoby @forrestgump1Flag

  11. Corey W.

    @bryanyentz Man, I was hoping this would be a fun, gritty action-flick. Oh well. It's all about Spiderman this week anyhow! Awesome review, as always.

    2 years agoby @coreyFlag

  12. Bryan Yentz

    @moviegeek, haha, thanks, man! Means a lot!

    @kguy, I'm willing to bet if you're a fan of stone you'll find definite positives herein as it performs like a calmer version of NBK, but I just found it utterly lacking. Thanks for reading, man!

    @dan,
    Thanks, man! I try and keep it honest and concise as opposed to the critics on Rotten Tomatoes who give sh*t like The Smurfs positive reviews...

    @Bawnian&#169-Dexeus,

    Thanks, man!

    @ejk1,

    Haha, that's exactly what my friend was saying too. Guy can't get a break. . . Or act that well. . . Or star in a decent flick. Next time, maybe?

    2 years agoby @bryanyentzFlag

  13. moviegeek

    NO interest in this movie at all. Awesome review. You are always the most outspoken and most extreme with your ratings.

    2 years agoby @moviegeekFlag

  14. K.Guy

    I'm still praying that I will like this. Oliver Stone is one of my favorite directors! Stone don't fail me now!

    2 years agoby @kguyFlag

  15. Dan

    @bryanyentz Good stuff, man. You never sugar coat how you feel about anything in your reviews, and that's what makes them great.

    2 years agoby @dan1Flag

  16. Bawnian©-Dexeus

    Least Del Toro delivered (as always). Great review

    2 years agoby @bawnian-dexeusFlag

  17. ejk1

    It's interesting. About six months ago, Taylor Kitsch was the next "It" guy of Hollywood, and now, after three bombs (although JC wasn't his fault; bad timing and familiarity did him in, although the latter is a laughable excuse for people to use), he may be done as a leading man. He may be yearning for those FNL royalty checks very soon.

    2 years agoby @ejk1Flag

  18. Bryan Yentz

    And thanks for reading, skywise!

    2 years agoby @bryanyentzFlag

  19. Bryan Yentz

    @skywise

    Yeah, man. Wait for it's home release as a theatrical viewing ain't worth it. Thankfully Del Toro nails it (as is typically the case) and comes off as both repugnant and even sometimes humorous. The only shining moment of acting from the lot.

    2 years agoby @bryanyentzFlag

  20. Bryan Yentz

    @the Narrator,

    While Lively may show potential elsewhere, my beef with her as that she's on standby herein. She seems soulless and all of her lines are conveyed with the subtlety of a card reading off camera. But yeah, definitely wait for the DVD as this is nothing special; not even a decent way of killing time.

    Thanks for reading, man!

    2 years agoby @bryanyentzFlag

  21. skywise

    @bryanyentz Pretty much what i expected of this film but its nice to know that Del Toro nails it. I will check this out on Blu Ray just because he is in it.

    2 years agoby @skywiseFlag

  22. the Narrator

    Well, I disagree about Lively's acting abilities and some of the things concerning this film, but the rest sounds plausible. I'm going to wait until dvd to check this out, but I have a feeling I'll meet a compromise in it somewhere.

    Regardless, great review. I thoroughly enjoyed it from beginning to end.

    2 years agoby @narratorFlag