SAVAGES (D: Oliver Stone, 127 min) Opens Friday (July 6). See times. Rating: NNN

Oliver Stone gets to display his signature razzle-dazzle in this drug war tale. All-American dealers Chon (Taylor Kitsch) and Ben (Aaron Johnson) are drug kingpins, thanks to the supercharged pot seeds Chon brought back to America from Iraq.

Theirs is the perfect partnership – Chon, all hyped up on war fever, handles security.

Ben, a Buddhist who uses his drug profits to do good in developing countries, handles the botany. They’re so tight, they even share girlfriend Ophelia (Blake Lively).

When Mexican queenpin Elena (Salma Hayek) tries to muscle in on their territory – she sends them a video of a multiple decapitation to motivate them to do business with her – the boys resist. Until Elena kidnaps Ophelia.

The American threesome may be the centrepiece of Savages but the secondary characters are what give this movie its kicks. Hayek is delicious as the vicious Mexican powerhouse saddled with just one personal weakness. John Travolta is gloriously weaselly as the corrupt cop. And as Elena’s brutal thug, Benicio Del Toro steals the movie out from all of them. Watch how he deals with the saliva Ophelia spits all over his face.

There is a serious narrative glitch in the last act, which almost completely trashes the narrative arc. And Savages is not for the faint of heart. This is a very violent movie – it begins with the aforementioned execution – but movies about drug wars kinda have to be.

The characters, the violence, the kinetic energy – they’re all over the top. But Stone likes it that way. He’s crazy about rhapsodic emotion and revels in the bloodshed, cranking up the Brahms during the shoot-out sequences.

Maybe he should try opera next time.



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