Brutal violent thriller

As he’s shown with movies like Platoon, Oliver Stone can make excellent films, but he often goes overboard, like Natural Born Killers. Savages is a good example. There are some excellent thrills and chills here, but the over the top violence and unpleasantness of major characters makes it hard to watch.

Vancouver’s own Taylor Kitsch and Aaron Johnson grow and deal the best pot in California. Kitsch, playing a former Navy SEAL, provides the muscle; Johnson provides the botany. Blake Lively plays their common girlfriend and the three live in a happy menage a trois until a Mexican drug cartel wants to form a partnership. The cartel invites them to the partnership meeting with an internet message displaying the bloody, severed heads of men who presumably did not agree to be partners.

The Mexican cartel is run by a cold-blooded Salma Hayek and Benicio Del Toro plays her cruel enforcer. When Kitsch and Johnson balk at becoming partners the baddies kidnap Lively to make them more compliant. Meanwhile a slimy federal drug agent, played by John Travolta, schemes with both sides.

Part of the problem is that Kitsch, Johnson and Lively are the centre of the story, but are outacted by the villainous supporting characters played by Hayek, Del Toro and Travolta. Although no-one is very likable. Murder, torture, double-crossing and explicit sex fill out the overlong running time of this in-your-face, brutal, nasty thriller. And if you don’t like the first ending, Stone conveniently includes an alternative.

Rating: three deer out of five

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Alf Cryderman is a Red Deer freelance writer and old movie buff.