peteg's blog - noise - movies - 2012 10 23 Savages

Savages

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Another cheap-Tuesday found me at The Ritz at 6:45pm, Cinema 1 upstairs, for the latest from Oliver Stone. There's something to be said for seeing his flicks on the big screen and I enjoyed it for the most part, though it be his most morally vacant effort to date.

Many reviews had led me to believe that the actors were a bit shit, but I must demur; I came to see Travolta play a somewhat Pulp Fiction DEA operator, and Del Toro meander as a playboy rent-a-thug. Salma Hayek keeps her kit on, perhaps because Stone can't flick the switch to Rodriguez. She does manage a line in some kind of viciousness, but this is not really sustained when the Californians predictably switch the tables on her. As such she is a mostly reactionary queenpin, which seems unlikely given her success. As for the ménage à trois, well, they managed to rise above mildly crap more often than not.

Being a Stone flick we got some intense graphic violence, such an immolation that harks back to Vietnam, 1963. Stone flirts with eye-for-an-eye morality in that scene, and links it to the final events by having third-wheel O imply that she wants something more final than a disappearance into Nowherevillage, Indonesia; the dissatisfaction and wistfulness running through her narration makes it all seem like so much fairy floss. It's hard to square with her desires in the final movement, and I'm sure the boys would have sorted out Del Toro on her say-so. (Perhaps that'll be Savages II.)

Stone makes Laguna look like paradise for beach bunnies and predators. There are some great small touches — "Cheech and Chong" slips from Del Toro at some point, and Chon responds with "Allah willing" when his military buddies radio in the preparedness of themselves and their IUDs. It is sometimes unclear where people are, but I got the impression the whole thing takes place in the U.S., with the Indian reservations being the places where the Mexican cartel boys do their work. (Salma Hayek moves north to join the action.) The plot gets quite loose in places, and I didn't follow the characters' reasoning too closely.

I wonder if Stone has run out of some of the multitudes of film stocks he typically uses, and also of soundtrack material (was that Cat Power covering something over the closing credits?). I guess we could try to read this as a boomer's paean to a despoiled Mexico, a place that once salved the damaged (cf Born on the Fourth of July)... or perhaps an attempt to show how exotically unerotic 21st century cinematic sex has been. In brief, Stone tries to be Tarantino by telling a good story to no particular end.

Stephanie Zacharek reviewed it for Movieline. I didn't see anything from Dana Stevens; perhaps she is a Stone anti-fan.