Savages. A movie review.
I was first introduced to Don Winslow’s writing with Satori. A novel that, last I heard, was optioned by Leonardo DiCaprio because he wants (presumably) his own version of Jason Bourne. Cold War era Jason Bourne, to be specific. But anyway, good book, great writer. I saw the wonderful promotional art (despite its reuse in Babel and other movies) and it piqued my interest. I read the book. I was blown away. The language is slick and…savage. It reads fast and cuts deep. It lived up to all the hype I had seen and more. I loved the book.
The casting worried me when I saw the trailer. Aaron Johnson was phenomenal in Nowhere Boy and quite enjoyable in Kick-Ass, but I felt he was a poor fit for Oliver Stone’s latest venture. I was right. His voice repeatedly distracted me with the nagging sensation that he was just a little too much of a boy to be involved in these situations. His character, Ben, is a bleeding heart activist just as he was written in the book, but here he is never given the chance to man up as he does in the book. However, Taylor Kitsch almost redeemed himself for John Carter and Battleship with this single performance. He’s smooth while being more than ready to kill everyone opposing him. He’s a thinking savage. He has badditude. Just as Winslow intended. Blake Lively, while usually hit or miss for me, did surprisingly well. While I have a personal dislike for people like her character, she plays the California Girl role well while also being the soul of this little group of devils. Her character, while mostly shallow, was always like this. It’s a faithful representation of the book. Benicio del Toro plays the vicious cartel enforcer perfectly while Salma Hayek veers dangerously between angry mob mom and psycho parent. It was confusing, but not bad enough that it distracted.
My problem stems from the ending. I’ll try not to spoil too much of it, but I would advise reading the book first. I feel that you will appreciate the movie much more if you can see what they almost did. I think what we see here is “Hollywood” pulling the teeth out of yet another piece of cinema. Maybe I’m wrong, Oliver Stone hasn’t had the best track record of late. This isn’t necessarily a tragedy. It’s a bad situation that got progressively worse and there was no way out for this story to end. It was written in way that made the tragic end of our protagonists semi-sweet and memorable. It had gravitas and feeling and it hurt just a little bit. And it was perfect.
But I’d like to think that some flacid mouthpiece for the industry insisted that the movie was too sad and that no one would buy it, so they made a revised ending that was forced on Stone & co. to sell tickets. Unfortunately, all they did was make me vow to rip and edit this movie into what it should have been. They pulled the teeth out of this movie and played some ripoff cover of a Beatles song while they rolled credits and I vociferously proclaimed my disgust.
By the way, if you were upset by someone screaming “You sons of bitches!” at the theater this weekend in Dallas, that totally wasn’t me.
6.5 / 10 because I wanted to feel something at a theater other than disgust and the urge to pee.