Savages: John Travolta Battles Drug Smugglers

"Welcome to the recession, boys," says John Travolta's DEA-double-agent profiteer in Oliver Stone's Savages, a movie of its moment, though both its good guys and bad guys (if there's really even a difference) are unquestionably among the 1 percent of their industry—the weed trade. The setting is the 100 miles surrounding the California/Mexico border circa right this minute, with Stone focusing on the human and fiscal politics of California's twin pot economies, one quasi-legal and the other criminal—a split that the film suggests can only last so long. More than two hours long—and building to two endings, one romantic-tragic and one quasi-ironic and romantic-ludicrous—Savages is bloated with plot and exposition, much of which is related via the incessant voice-over of Ophelia (Blake Lively), quite literally the voice of the movie, a responsibility the character is too wispy to shoulder. Taylor Kitsch and Aaron Johnson, as California dudes dragged into a turf war with the expansion-minded Mexican cartel, register as blanks onscreen. In contrast, Salma Hayek and Benicio del Toro, both sporting apparently intentionally terrible wigs, give big, scenery-chewing performances, earning our interest and empathy even while committing heinous acts. The film's micro-time-capsule approach is interesting, but Stone's indulgence in both above-the-law fantasy and the only-in-Hollywood notion that love trumps business are more potent than any point he's trying to make about our real world.

 
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