‘Savages’: The Reviews Are In!

Critics praise Oliver Stone's drug drama as 'a volatile concoction of violence, heroism and amorality.'

Forget rock and roll: For “Savages,” it’s all about sex, drugs and violence.

Opening this weekend, the R-rated flick from director Oliver Stone is an adaptation of Don Winslow’s novel, and it certainly doesn’t hold back on the violent action or shy away from exploring the sexual triangle between its young leads (Blake Lively, Aaron Johnson and Taylor Kitsch). Rounding out the cast are seasoned actors (Benicio Del Toro, Salma Hayek and John Travolta), and despite the mature content matter, critics haven’t been shying away.

Overall response has been fairly positive, though certainly not without some gripes here and there when it comes to this across-borders story. Take a look at our roundup of “Savages” reviews:

The Story
“California dudes Ben and Chon (Aaron Johnson and Taylor Kitsch) are dragged into a turf war with the expansion-minded Mexican cartel run by Salma Hayek’s drug-war widow Elena and her brutally amoral deputy, Lado (Benicio del Toro). The Mexicans regularly show their power by creating and disseminating videos documenting torture and beheadings. Eighty miles over the border, in Laguna Beach, Ben and Chon supply their ultra-potent, genetically engineered strains to legal medical dispensaries but make their real money illegally shipping out of state. The product and its profits fuel the boys’ lifestyle of neo-hippie decadence, embodied by the business partners’ enthusiastic bedroom sharing of poor little rich girl turned earth-mother floozy Ophelia (Blake Lively). Both sides consider the other to be ‘savages’ — which we know because they say it aloud multiple times.” — Karina Longworth, The Village Voice

Oliver Stone
“Stylistically, Stone summons up many of the visual and aural tropes of his creatively assaultive works of 15 or so years ago, to mostly strong effect; there’s solarization and blood-soaked saturation, alternation from color to black-and-white and film to computer/video images, altered state-suggestive editing, warping of time and anything else he can think of — all appropriate to the occasion. The re-creations of cartel charnel house torture are gruesome and pushed to the limit of mainstream acceptability.” — Todd McCarthy, The Hollywood Reporter

The Violence
“This is, in fact, one of the more violent movies in recent memory. But Stone doesn’t let anyone off easy. Violence has an effect here, has meaning, has relevance to the story. And that’s a good thing; otherwise, it would be hard to stomach.” — Bill Goodykoontz, Arizona Republic

The Cast
“Johnson, Kitsch, and Lively compare themselves to Butch, Sundance, and Etta, but they’re at most a diet version, vacant but pretty. (Stone shoots Lively’s windblown tresses like they’re a special effect.) Hayek, though, is ferocious as a ruthless crime lord turned metaphor for first-generation self-loathing, and Benicio Del Toro, as her henchman Lado, is magnetic as he slides from amusing to frightening. He and a surprisingly solid John Travolta, playing a corrupt D.E.A. agent, are the only two figures with the luxury of approaching the escalating conflict with a sense of humor.” — Alison Willmore, A.V. Club

The Final Word
“Savages is a drug-fueled crime delirium that doesn’t break much new ground in the genre but offers a volatile concoction of violence, heroism, and amorality that is compulsively watchable.” — James Berardinelli, ReelViews