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Savages (Blu-ray Review)

10 Nov, 2012 By: Erik Gruenwedel

Street 11/13/12
Box Office $47.32 million
$29.98 DVD, $34.98 Blu-ray
Rated ‘R’ for strong brutal and grisly violence, some graphic sexuality, nudity, drug use and language throughout.
Stars Blake Lively, Taylor Kitsch, Salma Hayek, Benicio Del Toro, John Travolta, Aaron Johnson, Emile Hirsch.

Director Oliver Stone says he likes to shoot movies in warmer climates where the hues are cooperative.

Thus is Laguna Beach, Calif., the hometown for action-drama Savages — a sun-drenched oasis from the harsh realities of amoral Mexican drug violence where misplaced justice and revenge (i.e. decapitations) are meted out with a chainsaw, among other un-pleasantries.

In a story where evil (with a dab of conscience) meets vile, it’s hard to feel empathy for characters even as appealing as hardbody best friends and successful pot growers Chon (John Carter’s Taylor Kitsch) and Ben (Aaron Taylor-Johnson), who share a frivolous nymph named “O” (Blake Lively) both physically and emotionally. Both want out of the drug biz, but life’s too good to stop the gravy train.

Their world of decadent indifference — including mindless shopping sprees at South Coast Plaza — changes quickly when Chon receives a gory email video depicting what will happen if they don’t sell their pot business to a Baja cartel led by ruthless Elena Sanchez (exquisite Salma Hayek). Her enforcer, Lado, is played with equally effective grittiness by Benicio Del Toro.

When “O” is kidnapped by Lado and his thugs, the boys quickly realize that it’s more than ransom that Sanchez wants. What follows is cat-and-mouse gamesmanship between the parties that also involves corrupt DEA agent Dennis (played with slimy excellence by John Travolta).

“O,” who acts as the movie’s moral compass, appeals to Sanchez’s motherly side — thereby creating a psychological edge (and possibly saving her life) that at times seems like a stretch given the cartel leader’s vacuous compassion. Sometimes a mother just misses her daughter.

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