Savages review (Blu-ray)

When the film opens with a masked figure going Henry-the-eighth on three handcuffed guys with a chainsaw, rarely do you expect a comedy. But from Oliver Stone, the director who brought us Platoon and JFK, comes Savages – a film that will definitely keep you on edge throughout the entire 129 minutes (or 141 minutes of you watch the extended cut).

Based on Don Winslow’s novel of the same name, Savages zooms in on the lives of Californian druglords Chon (Kitsch) and Ben (Taylor-Johnson) and their girlfriend O – short for Ophelia (Lively). Yes, their girlfriend, that they share and live happily together with.

Chon and Ben, famous on the drug scene for their top-notch marijuana all the way from Afghanistan (from Chon’s soldier days) are approached by the big guys from Mexico, who propose they join forces. After seeing a violent video demonstrating what happens when you mess with the Baja Cartel, Chon and Ben politely decline the offer. But the Baja Cartel do not take no for an answer. Shortly afterwards, O is kidnapped and tortured on camera for her lovers to watch and figure out how to keep the Mexicans happy and get her back safely. Oh, and in case you were wondering, Travolta plays Dennis, a corrupt DEA agent who helps Chon and Ben run their business without any trouble with the law.

Without giving too much away, Savages is full of delightful twists that make you gasp, breathe a sigh of relief and laugh at the same time. Underneath all that action – heads being cut off with chainsaws, gun shootings and cars being blown up – and even a rape scene, which you’ll be sure you saw coming, will be relieved when it appears not to happen, but are shocked when it actually does – are a lot of jokes at the expense of these twitty druglords who think they can live the highlife at no expense. Even funnier when it is revealed that the head of the Mexican business end is Elena (Hayek) – a tiny little woman who all the tough suit-wearing and moustache-bearing burly men bow down to.

The plot becomes more twisted as one druglord shakes hands with another. At times, it’s hard to keep up with who’s working for who. But this doesn’t ruin the film – just make sure you don’t run to the loo halfway through or you’ll be out of the loop.

Savages is not your typical action/adventure movie – it’s better. It’s tense, it’s funny, it’s unexpected. And it's definitely worth a watch.

EXTRAS ★★★★★½There are two cuts of the film – the Theatrical version (2:10:58) and the longer  Unrated version (2:21:10). The bonus material consists of: an audio commentary with director Stone; a separate audio commentary with screenwriter Salerno, producers Eric Kopeloff and Moritz Borman, novelist Don Winslow and production designer Tomas Voth; nine deleted scenes (16:01); a five-part making-of featurette under the umbrella title Stone Cold Savages (33:53)

Stuart O'Connor is the Managing Editor of Screenjabber, the movie review website he co-founded with Neil Davey far too many years ago. He likes all genres, as long as the film is good (although he does enjoy the occasional bad "guilty pleasure"), and drinks way too much coffee.

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