'Savages' truly savage, ultimately senseless

July 4, 2012 

The title fits.

Mexican drug dealers feeling pressure in their country move north into California to take over the business of two American entrepreneurs whose marijuana is legendary for its quality. Highly organized and very violent, saying no to anything the cartel wants is a death sentence. And not an ordinary death sentence. Opponents have their heads cut off with chainsaws, or burned alive, or any number of other horrible forms of death.

-- Local show times, theaters, trailer.

The two dealers the cartel moves in on — done by Taylor Kitsch (Battleship) and Aaron Johnson (Kick-Ass) — say no. Their marijuana is the best in the world. They’d love to get out of the business, but not that way.

Exploring their weaknesses, the cartel finds they share a common girlfriend done by Blake Lively (Gossip Girl). She’s kidnapped to put pressure on them. That means war.

War is an intense mix of very violent acts couched in a chess match where first one side and then another wins a skirmish. Each tussle hikes up the stakes. And on it goes.

Director Oliver Stone and Don Winslow do the screenplay from Winslow’s novel but don’t come close to following the book’s plot. Stone gets great performances from the three principles, a bit part from John Travolta, and from Benicio Del Toro and Salma Hayek who do the bad guys.

It’s bloody; it’s violent and if it’s your thing, pretty good.

Then comes the inexplicable, out of nowhere, and — truthfully — quite stupid ending. It’s a total “huh?” While I’m not going to give what happened away, it does bother me. What could possibly possess a director of Stone’s skill to opt for that kind of a climax? Is is possible Stone tested the ending for audiences that hated the original, so he altered the end to make them happy?

It’s Oliver Stone, maverick. So that doesn’t sound plausible.

There is one other explanation. As experience tells us, when partaking of killer pot that bad ideas can seem like really good ones. Is that what happened to the conclusion of Savages?

Mr. Movie rating: 2 1/2 stars

Director: Oliver Stone
Stars: Blake Lively, Tailor Kitsch, Aaron Johnson, John Travolta, Benicio Del Toro, Salma Hayek

Rated R for extreme violence, gore, language, drug use, nudity, sex. It is playing at the Carmike 12, the Fairchild Cinemas 12 and Walla Walla Grand Cinemas.

5 stars to 4 1/2 stars: Must see on the big screen
4 stars to 3 1/2 stars: Good film, see it if it's your type of movie.
3 stars to 2 1/2 stars: Wait until it comes out on DVD.
2 stars to 1 star: Don't bother.
0 stars: Speaks for itself.

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