Year: 2012
Production Co: Ixtlan
Studio: Universal
Director: Oliver Stone
Writer: Oliver Stone/Shane Salerno/Don Winslow
Cast: Blake Lively, Taylor Kitsch, Aaron Johnston, Benicio Del Toro, Salma Hayek, John Travolta, Demián Bichir

I'd never considered Oliver Stone a creative brethren to Tony Scott before, but this movie proves how similar the pair are in style. Even though Stone used to get a lot more political (not that Savages isn't without a strongly political element) and Scott did movies with a more 'feminine' aesthetic (The Hunger) once upon a time, Savages is a muscular, mildly more sex-obsessed action film just like Scott's been making for the last decade or more.

It's Stone at his most commercial and accessible, but with a sexual and bloodily violent edge we seldom see from other mainstream directors. Only European auteurs like Paul Verhoeven lace sex with violence to such a degree.

But Stone (possibly along with his co-writers) has the unique gift of giving an action movie rare sensuality. It's not just about metal, bullets and fast cars. When heroine O (Livley) talks about how her boyfriends Chon (Kitsch) and Ben (Johnston) are iron and wood, anger and Earth, it gets under the skin and gives you a very deep picture of all three characters simultaneously, so you're going to care when the blood starts flying.

The photogenic boys are peaceful Laguna Beach pot growers who have cornered the market in the highest possible grade stuff. They have a beautiful beach house, they're both in love with and share the same beautiful woman, and they ensure the heat's off their backs thanks to frequent graft to a crooked local DEA agent (Travolta, in gleeful mode – he's always more fun as a villain).

But when a Mexican cartel led by the fearsome Elena (Hayek) wants to move in and partner with them, the guys know they're in trouble no matter what happens – getting in bed with killers will be as bad as rejecting them. With the cartel's nasty fixer Lado (Del Toro, in one of his best roles ever) hanging around, the only way out is to disappear.

But the night before they're due to disappear to Indonesia and wait for the heat to die down, the cartel snatches O and takes her hostage. Suddenly the guys even fewer options – agree to even harsher terms on the deal or start getting bits of O back in the mail.

The plot is deceptively superficial as the guys mount a rescue operation using the clout and firepower of Elena's cartel and Chon's former Marine buddies to get O back, but Stone does it all with such style you can't help but be swept up.

The only downer is the bizarre climax, which plays out to a bloody conclusion and then rewinds, telling you that's the way things could have gone down before showing you a much happier ending. It feels like a cheap plot device to include an action packed conclusion when everybody wanted a happy ending after all.

The picture is beautiful, from the nubile bodies of young women to the colours and textures of the landscape, and everything from the beautiful beachside homes to the splatters of blood are vivid with life.

But the luckiest participant is Kitsch as Chon, whose prettiness the Hollywood gods seem to be smiling on. He seems destined for A-list stardom even though he's headlined the two most notable flops of 2012, John Carter and Battleship.

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