Today Universal released Savages, a new Oliver Stone movie in his Natural Born Killers ouevre of nihilistic, Clockwork Orange-wannabes. At least these over-glorified action movies disturb less than Stone’s other cinematic preoccupations — the communist agitprop documentary, conspiracy theory histories, and anti-capitalist polemics.
The premise from the press release:
Laguna Beach entrepreneurs Ben (Johnson), a peaceful and charitable Buddhist, and his closest friend Chon (Kitsch), a former Navy SEAL and ex-mercenary, run a lucrative, homegrown industry-raising some of the best marijuana ever developed. They also share a one-of-a-kind love with the extraordinary beauty Ophelia (Lively). Life is idyllic in their Southern California town…until the Mexican Baja Cartel decides to move in and demands that the trio partners with them. When the merciless head of the BC, Elena (Hayek), and her brutal enforcer, Lado (Del Toro), underestimate the unbreakable bond among these three friends, Ben and Chon-with the reluctant, slippery assistance of a dirty DEA agent (Travolta)-wage a seemingly unwinnable war against the cartel.
So far Savages has collected mediocre reviews. Rotten Tomatoes proclaims only 51% positive, and highlighs Rafer Guzman at Newsday addressing the main problem with Stone’s explorations in the genre of the highbrow, ultraviolent, philosophy major action movie:
“Savages” is a juvenile fantasy of bullets, breasts and bongs — not such a bad thing, if Stone would just admit it and stop staging the film as a profound ethical wrestling match.
A film can be a teenage boy’s exploitation picture with naked women, fun explosions, and elegant action sequences. Or it can be a grown-up movie that deals with evil and humanity’s animal instincts seriously. It can’t be both. The reason why Stanley Kubrick’s film worked so well and has so rarely been duplicated is that it knows to start off as one to hook the adolescents and then shift to the other to make an adult point about reality. But Stone hasn’t made that leap upwards to maturity himself, so how could his films?