BLU-RAY REVIEW: Savages
Oliver Stone's Latest Social Commentary-Turned-Actioner with Attitude Hits Home Video...
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Oliver Stone doesn't pull any punches when it comes to political or social commentary on screen. And yet, the writer/director's latest - Savages - is by far the least political of the award-winning filmmaker's creations. While the film no doubt features the director's touch and is filled with Stone's thoughts on what the war on drugs has become, this merely acts as the setting and surrounding for the action-packed story which unfolds for the film's 129 minutes.
Former Navy SEAL and combat-veteran Chon (Taylor Kitsch) and free-spirit, peace-loving Ben (Aaron Johnson) are best friends and marijuana farmers living in Laguna Beach, California. The duo, living the high life - literally and figuratively - share a passion for weed, money and Ophelia "O" Sage (Blake Lively), a woman willing and able to share herself - body and soul - with both men. So it's no surprise the two men and O find themselves in a bind when Mexican cartel enforcer Lado (a haunting Benicio del Toro) begins to make it clear their business is intruding on the cartel's business. Offered the "opportunity" to become a part of the cartel's business, headed by the ruthless Elena Sánchez (Salma Hayek) north of the border, the duo refuse and soon find O in the hands of the cartel and their only way to get her back violent, angry and life-shattering.
Again, while there's no doubt Stone's political and social views on the war on drugs are made clear and the madness and violence which result are clearly Stone's view of what the war on drugs has become here in the U.S., the various roles of each of the parties involved in our nation are characterized well. Youth stolen from O whose made to suffer and endure, innocence stolen from Ben made to watch his peaceful life in shambles, rage stolen from Chon unable to seek resolution, and life stolen from so many more who cease to exist completely. While each role is clearly defined in each character, maybe none more so than the U.S. government's in the corrupt DEA agent Dennis (John Travolta, in a well-acted and dramatic part), on the take and working every and all sides in order to simply keep on keeping on. Frightening, and yet maybe all too real.
The film is dramatic, intense and - sadly - all over the place. Like O when drugged, Savages has moments of brilliant clarity which shine as well as moments of whacked-out, senselessness striving to be understood and failing miserably. Told from the perspective of O, Savages sets itself up for being overly dramatic, which isn't to say it's not entertaining or engaging. The film features some cliche dialogue and moments of haphazardness when introducing the characters, settings, situations and conflicts. However, the film features plenty of gun play, action, thrills and drama. Thankfully, if you're a fan of Oliver Stone, you'll enjoy Savages.
The blu-ray features a gorgeous 1080p video with bright, bold colors which pop off the screen and help set the SoCal setting brilliantly. The film's colors - like much of Southern California - are warm, inviting and attractive, ensuring those who've been there will be reminded of and wish to go back...at least until they've seen Savages and the madness the drug war reaps on the state. The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 surround track delivers plenty of effects; the surfer's waves, the screams of the tortured, the ricochet of bullets...each comes to life across the sound stage with dialogue front heavy and clearly audible.
This set includes the film on blu-ray, DVD and digital copy as well as a number of special features worth noting, including a feature commentary, a number of deleted scenes, and a number of Making Of featurettes which will impress fans who enjoy the film. The featurettes will show the amount of background research that went into the making of Savages, something which will impress even non-fans.
For those looking for a great action film, a good thriller, and some decent political and social commentary, Savages is well worth a watch. The regular version is visceral and viscous which will have some watchers wondering why the need for an Uncut version. Of course, for those who want a bit more mayhem and murder, it's present here, uncut and ready to enjoy. The theatrical release is rated R for strong brutal and grisly violence, some graphic sexuality, nudity, drug use and language throughout. The Uncut isn't.
Savages is available November 13 on blu-ray and DVD wherever fine home video is sold.
- Jess C. Horsley