Film review | Savages – Joint venture goes to pot for Oliver Stone’s Laguna Beach ménage à trois

Savages - Blake Lively & Benicio Del Toro

Never known for restraint, Oliver Stone goes even further over the top than usual with Savages, a lurid thriller in which a trio of privileged young American pot growers fall foul of a ferocious Mexican drug cartel.

‘Just because I’m talking to you doesn’t mean I’m alive at the end of the story announces Blake Lively’s rich chick O in voice-over right at the start, setting the tone for the self-consciously tricksy narrative to follow.

O, short for Ophelia (the ‘bipolar basketcase from Hamlet’), lives in a blissful Laguna Beach ménage à trois with botanist Ben (Aaron Johnson) and former Navy SEAL Chon (Taylor Kitsch), the brains and brawn respectively of an extremely profitable dope-growing business in southern California. So profitable, indeed, that scary matriarch Salma Hayek’s Baja cartel wants to go into partnership with them.

Savages

Given the brutality of the cartel’s methods, this is an offer you can’t refuse, but the boys do. And when the gang and its lethal enforcer, Benicio Del Toro’s Lado, raise the stakes to force them to comply, the gringos reply in kind, drawing John Travolta’s corrupt DEA agent into the fray.

Stone films this in the dazzling, hallucinatory shooting style he deployed on The Doors and Natural Born Killers, switching film stock from arty black and white to saturated colour, and chopping the action up with furiously kinetic editing. Amid the garish mayhem, Stone is banging on as usual about American decadence and the futility of the war on drugs, but the story is so relentlessly silly that any serious points get lost in the mix. Relentlessly silly, yes, but also thrilling, flashy and deliriously entertaining. And you don’t need to be high to enjoy it.

On general release from Friday 21st September.

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