Capsule reviews of 'Savages' and other new films
Oliver Stone's latest is a lurid, pulpy film noir with a sexy, sometimes dreamlike California beach vibe. It's an intriguing contrast, this mixing of a genre and an aesthetic that may not necessarily sound like they'd blend well together, but the result is the most explosively poppy film Stone has made in a long time. "Savages" is darkly funny and stylishly violent but never reaches the overwhelming level of audiovisual assault of, say, "Natural Born Killers," for example. Directing from a script he co-wrote with Shane Salerno and Don Winslow (based on Winslow's novel), Stone draws us into this glamorous yet seedy world and draws strong performances from his eclectic ensemble cast. Taylor Kitsch and Aaron Johnson co-star as best friends and business partners Chon and Ben, young surfer-dude bad-asses who got rich quick growing a particularly strong strain of pot. They live in a spectacular Laguna Beach home with endless views of the Pacific Ocean and happily share the affections of their mutual girlfriend, the beautiful, blonde O (Blake Lively). Everything's going great until the leader of a Mexican cartel, the regal but ruthless Elena (a fantastic, scenery-chewing Salma Hayek) tries to expand her territory by taking over their business. Much brutal bloodshed ensues. John Travolta, Benicio Del Toro, Demian Bechir and Emile Hirsch are among the players with something at stake in this increasingly deadly game. R for strong brutal and grisly violence, some graphic sexuality, nudity, drug use and language throughout. 129 minutes. Three stars out of four.