The Savages Review: Granddaddy Olly Shows Those Perpetually Adolescent Superhero Geeks How It's Done

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Savages Review: Granddaddy Olly Shows Those Perpetually Adolescent Superhero Geeks How It's Done

By Dustin Rowles | Film Reviews | July 6, 2012 | Comments ()


The summer blockbuster season can be huge and spectacular and exhausting. I love a good superhero movie as much as the next guy, but after two months of capes and gothic fairy tales and vampire-killing presidents, a change of pace feels good, something to cleanse away the sticky genre. There are no cowls or techno-gadgets in Savages, there are no expensive CGI effects, no lip-biting Snow Whites or musclebound hammer wielders. Oliver Stone returns to the basics: Sex, drugs, and violence, the fundamentals of storytelling.

You know what Savages has that most of the rest of the summer fare does not? A fucking script, people. Words on a page. People speaking to each other, fucking each other, smoking a bowl together, and shooting each other in the goddamn face. There are no cartoon villains played by slight but charming British men with menacing smiles. Those aren't villains. Benicio Del Toro with an out-of-control moustache and a mullet is a motherfucking villain. Real villains aren't masterminds trying to achieve world domination: They're assholes who burn snitches in tires. The step-mother was wicked, Loki was fun, and The Lizard was, well, cheesy, but Benicio Del Toro? Here's a guy that will shoot you in the neck and make you watch him fuck your girlfriend while you bleed out. He's not a guy you love to hate; he's a guy that makes you uncomfortable to watch.

Based on Don Winslow's novel, Savages is about two men: A dreadlocked botanist-turned-weed grower, Ben (Aaron Johnson, unrecognizable from his Kick-Ass character), and his best friend, Chon (Taylor Kitch), a former Navy SEAL turned muscle for their pot-growing operation. Unfortunately, for Ben and Chon, their little weed company became successful enough to attract the attention of a Mexican drug cartel, who want to partner with them whether they like it or not. They don't like it, and when they attempt to reject the cartel's offer, the cartel kidnaps their girlfriend, O (Blake Lively). And yes: She's a shared girlfriend, because that's the kind of movie this is. Deal. So naturally when Ben and Chon attempt to retrieve O, all hell breaks loose. They get on the bad side of Elena (Salma Hayek), who is running the cartel, and her henchmen, Alex (Demián Bichir) and Lado (Del Toro). A DEA Agent (John Travolta at his wicked best) also gets involved, and there's a lot of back-stabbing, a a few broken arrangements, and an ass-load of blood.

Savages is very much in the vein of True Romance, and it's easily Oliver Stone's best film since Natural Born Killers. He's not preoccupied with controversial subject material. He's not trying to be overly provocative. He's simply telling a story. The performances range from serviceable (Blake Lively) to great (Benicio Del Toro) and everything in between (Aaron Johnson), but there's nothing about any of those performances -- save for Lively's narration -- that distracts you from the story that's being told. Even Kitsch -- who isn't being asked to carry a terrible action movie, for once -- reminds us of the Timmy Riggins we once loved, if Timmy Riggins sold drugs and killed people who got in his way. Yes, there are two endings -- the Oliver Stone ending, and the Hollywood ending (although, both may have been in the Winslow's novel) -- but these are the compromises one accepts to see a movie instead of a multiplex Disneyland ride.

Savages isn't a perfect film; far from it. But it's nice to see someone stand up and say, "Let's make a goddamn movie about adults. For adults." Not for the prized 18-24 demo, and not for grown-ass men trying to recapture their childhood. Let's make a movie with a hard R, stick a stake through the R's neck and fuck him to death. Get a goddamn babysitter and leave the kids at home, Grandaddy Olly wants to show you a movie. There are no white knights, no justice-seekers, and no last-second heroes. But there is Blake Lively's sideboob, Taylor Kitsch's ass, and a lot of people missing their heads. Literally. It feels pure and empowering, like I'm being talked to like a goddamn grown-up instead of a man-child who wants to see his toys explode on the screen, and while there's nothing wrong with exploding toys, it's nice to be reminded that not every movie is being made to sell a Happy Meal.

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Comments Are Welcome, Bigots and Trolls Are Not

  • Lapine

    Been meaning to read the book for ages, but went ahead and saw the movie first. Just what I needed at the end of last week, a hard R. Oh, and Aaron Johnson is gorgeous.

  • Oliver Hardly

    "About adults. For adults." Especially adults who get off on explosions and car chase and people getting shot and tortured. And fantasize about a three-way with Blake Lively. Those adults. "Savages" is real Arthur Miller territory.

  • I thought the advertising campaign for this movie was disgusting. It brags about and wallows in all the vileness the film promises: "You want to see horrifying violence and degradation? Have we got the movie for you!"
    Does Stone bring his customary two-by-four and the flashy lights spelling out "Author's Message" to the film? I guess blows to the head would create a Brave New Word "Feelies" aspect to the viewing experience. Imagine if it was in 3D too!

  • zeke_the_pig

    'Benicio Del Toro with an out-of-control moustache and a mullet is a motherfucking villain. '

    Should be inscribed on every Screenwriting for Beginners manual.

  • TheEmpress

    I thought the acting was great, except for Blake Lively who was just passable. Aaron Johnson is so awesome. And yea Tim Riggins!

  • OldSchool60

    "Let’s make a movie with a hard R, stick a stake through the R’s neck and fuck him to death."

    Oh Dustin, I love it when you talk dirty.Don't ever change.

  • I love Uncle Ollie--JFK FTW mofos!---but I'm just NOT in the mood for another installment of his Natural Born Killers oeuvre. I need to be uplifted right now. Beasts of the Southern Wild and Moonrise Kingdom, here I come!

  • Natural Born Killers is one of the most overrated godawful movies ever made. From that point forward Stone has been more enamored with editing in as many camera changes, lens filters, and extraneous shots meant to convey the inner turmoil of his (paper thin) characters than actually tell a good story. Is Savages more of the same or does he actually calm down the artifice and focus on narrative?

  • MIjo

    Savages is more of the same. That's what made me really not like this movie and the narration by Blake Lively. Also the cast must have said the word savage or savages at least 10 times throughout the film which I thought was wierd.

  • Jezzer

    "He’s not preoccupied with controversial subject material. He’s not trying to be overly provocative. He’s simply telling a story."

    Are you sure this is Oliver Stone?

  • Az

    For the record, I liked the book. I didn't read it because it was literature. I read it because the trailer for the movie intrigued me and because sometimes, all I need is a quick dirty read that keeps me enthralled for an hour or so.. The prequel came out this week and I will be reading it as well. Without a single apology for doing so. And for enjoying it. So there.

  • Mr_Grumpypants

    You are savages! We are savages! They are savages! We are all savages!!! What's that? I'm being too subtle for you? Then allow me to give you the fucking DICTIONARY DEFINITION of the word savages in a movie FUCKING TITLED SAVAGES.

  • I_Sell_Books

    Will this redeem Taylor Kitsch's movie career? Because please, while I love Tim Riggins, well, yanno.

  • PDamian

    Unfortunately, no (IMO). He was good, but on the other hand, any number of other actors/hot young dudes could have played the part, and I can think of a few that might have brought a little more depth and/or emotional resonance to it. Sorry, but -- slight spoiler -- Kitsch's very nice bare ass humping and pumping on Blake Lively (who looked a bit as if she'd rather be shopping) was insufficient to redeem Battleship AND John Carter.

  • dahlia6

    You know, maybe its because I can take mine out any time I like, but sideboob just doesn't do anything for me. I can see why the guys like it, but sometimes I feel like its being marketed to the ladies, too, and I just don't get it. If you're into it, awesome, but for me, meh.

  • Fredo

    Just because they're not wearing tights doesn't make this any less sophomoric.

    But I'll give it a chance.

  • F'mal DeHyde

    There's a LOT of online bitching about that ending.

  • pajiba

    Yeah. The ending was annoying, but I just chose to accept the Oliver Stone ending and ignore the other one.

  • poop

    What the fuck are you two on about? Are both endings shown in the theater?

    Which ending is more fap worthy?

    My dog's penis feels like curtain.

  • So, am I right in inferring that Ms Lively cannot even execute the 'credibility enhancing role in a down-scale, gritty movie.' Sideboob?! Really?! How is that going help her convince any future casting directors that she has anything to offer beyond the blandular tease who lacks even the most minimal commitment to the edgy role and a conviction to show the moviegoing public that she will deliver. A movie like this requires the previously 'packaged and marketed Hollywood accessory' actress to do nothing less than full frontal. I would feel less dissatisfied using my left hand.

  • Jim Johnson

    I usually don't care about nudity, or lack thereof, in movies, but it was very obvious here that she had a no nudity clause. I've never seen a woman get fucked so many times on screen and be covered every time. I thought she was very good in the role (though the narration was laughably bad at times) but the lack of nudity was very noticeable given that she was playing someone living with two boyfriends and there were at least 3 or 4 sex scenes..

  • Green Lantern

    That review now makes me want to see this. Referencing both "True Romance" and "Natural Born Killers" is a heavy thing for me.

  • AngelenoEwok

    I was mildly curious about and action-y story paired with a three-people-relationship dynamic, so I read the book. Um. I was not a fan. As I was reading, I was unsurprised that it was adapted to an Oliver Stone movie with an Eminem song in the trailer, because it's exactly the type of book that Oliver Stone and Eminem fans would think of as good literature.

  • Woody

    Great literature, nah, but I can't think of a much more fun book, and I sure has hell can't remember the last one I flew through as quickly as this one.

  • thankfully good lit =/= good script.

  • layla

    This review makes me excited.
    Excited enough, in fact, to excuse Lively's lazy as fuck enunciation.... you had me at "Benicio Del Toro with an out-of-control moustache and a mullet is a motherfucking villain". That, and side boob. .

    Side boob people, SIDE BOOB!

  • Green_Eggs_and_Hamster

    Yes, but is it really side boob? Or is it just cleavage that some confused person thinks is side boob?

  • Jim Slemaker

    Gotta say the positive reviews for this have caught me by surprise. The trailers made this look laughably terrible, like a former great director trying to do a sad imitation of Tarantino to save his film life. Now I'm intrigued.

  • Well then. Seems I may have to go to the movies. Watching this sort of hell sounds like heaven. I think I'll go alone, and make it a perfect afternoon.

  • hapl0

    Great. Just great. I waste my money on Snore Games and Bore-me-to-tears and now you tell me, a Blake Lively movie is a must watch. Goddamnit.

  • $27019454

    " People speaking to each other, fucking each other, smoking a bowl together, and shooting each other in the goddamn face."

    Or as we like to call it: Wednesday.

    I can't fucking wait. I love a hard R. (Don't we all?)

  • Mrcreosote

    I know what you're getting at here, but you have to admit the Blake Lively sideboob happy meal toy would be a bigger seller than even beanie babies.

  • M Pilot

    Maybe she should have been on my freebie 5 list

  • prairiegirl

    So happy to hear that Taylor Kitsch has redeemed himself to some extent following the disasters that were John Carter and Battleship. I really didn't want Timmy Riggins to just be a singular flash in the pan. Very interested in seeing this.

    Has anyone read the book? Curious how they compare.

    On a sort of related note, anytime I think of Oliver Stone, I think back to about a hear and a half ago when I was staying at a hotel in Santa Monica. I turned around from the concierge desk and a man was walking in the door. I thought to myself, "Is that Oliver Stone?". We made eye contact, he read the look on my face and gave me a nod that said, "Yes, I most certainly am."

  • BierceAmbrose

    My Brush with Stone-Ness - I think I told this one some years ago.

    Having a beer at the after-work light-hookup bar(*) where my buddy sometimes worked as bouncer, there was ... something going on by the door. So, I wandered over because, well sometimes frat boys, current or recently graduated, are idiots. Numbers, or more like approximate total bulk, can be processed by even a drunken frat-brain, so you just show some interest.

    An anxious art-school kid, wearing year-and-a-half behind lightweight trendy is speaking with my bud. With the earnestness. A manager is summoned, then the words spoken loud enough to hear: "This is Oliver Stone and he would like a drink."

    A table is opened in the shut-down eat-y side of the place. When all is prepared, and a corridor secured - somehow the great director made a channel through a crowd appear in a small, half-populated bar - The One, dressed in monochrome black, walks through and sits down. A single drink is had, and nursed, with an expression of modeate-pensive throughout. Then, with similar semi-fanfare, he exits.

    Two medium-drunk, acceptably hot girls by the bar were toying loudly with walking over to introduce themselves. I regret that I was unable to convince them to make the move. I feel like I let the guy down.

    I mean, if all he wanted was a drink, hotels have bars and mini-bars.

  • Louise

    Yikes. Ok. Well, then. I'll just swing by the nursing home to pick up grandma and we'll get down the theater tout de suite.

  • Uriah_Creep

    Hope you brought her heart pills.

  • catagisreading

    Oh how marvelous, I was so hoping this wasn't going to suck.

    I do love when 'Granddaddy Olly' goes off his meds and tells one of those old timey stories, with coherent narrative and consistent characterization and all that shit. Like they used to do in the olden days.

  • Just a couple of nitpicks. The movie is titled "Savages", not "The Savages", and Taylor Kitsch's character is a former Navy SEAL, so he's a sailor, not a soldier.
    I saw it today, and I have to agree. It's good to see a movie with an actual script and acting this summer. Good job, Oliver Stone.

  • Uriah_Creep

    Ha ha, Dustin got schooled by Austin Powers. Or possibly by Shrek.

  • $27019454


  • Uriah_Creep

    Shouldn't that be sphrockets?

    Also, I'm glad you're free of klingons, they're idiots. "Good day to die", my ass.

  • Belladonna Took

    Gotta agree with your nitpicking. It's a small thing but as an active duty Sailor we are sailors not soldiers. That being said, can't wait to see this movie.

  • OK, House of Pedantry is alive and well.

  • Seriously. Thank goodness we will never run out of self-accredited editors via online commentary! This article made ZERO SENSE until those MAJOR corrections were pointed out

  • John

    I didn't realize how obnoxious the correction was until two people took time out of their busy day to point that out.

  • Just a couple nitpicks. My day wasn't busy at the point I commented and technically is wasn't even 'day', but 'evening.' It's good to see an effort to deride the derisives this summer. Good job, John
    Now that wasn't unnecessary and snooty at all, was it

  • Gungadin

    You meant "derisiveness".

  • L.O.V.E.

    Now your speaking my language.

    I'm hoping for something akin to a Breaking Bad-Traffic-True Romance threesome.

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