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At the movies with Covo & Ayotte: “Savages”

By Angela Covo And Adam Rocha | 06 de julio de 2012

Film critics Angela Covo and Dennis Ayotte, Jr. bring you the truth about Hollywood’s current offerings every week. Look for their reviews online  whenever you need to know more about the latest films. This week, Covo and guest reviewer, Adam Rocha, Director of the SAFILM-San Antonio Film Festival share their views on Oliver Stone’s highly anticipated “Savages.” Check back next week to read what San Antonio's  two movie critics have to say about this summer’s highly anticipated blockbuster – the third and final installment of the “Dark Knight” franchise. And stay tuned to learn more about Matthew McConaughey’s newest film scheduled to be released on July 27, “Killer Joe.” Click the headline to read the reviews!

San Antonio .- Film critics Angela Covo and Dennis Ayotte, Jr. bring you the truth about Hollywood’s current offerings every week. Look for their reviews online whenever you need to know more about the latest films. This week, Covo and guest reviewer, Adam Rocha, Director of the SAFILM-San Antonio Film Festival share their views on Oliver Stone’s highly anticipated “Savages.” Check back next week to read what San Antonio's two movie critics have to say about this summer’s highly anticipated blockbuster – the third and final installment of the “Dark Knight” franchise. And stay tuned to learn more about Matthew McConaughey’s newest film scheduled to be released on July 27, “Killer Joe.” Click the headline to read the reviews!

Guest review by Adam Rocha, Director of the SAFILM-SAn Antonio Film Festival

By Angela Covo and Dennis Ayotte, Jr.                                             angela.covo@gmail.com and dennisayottejr@gmail.com 

THE NEW COVO & AYOTTE GUIDE:

  • INSTANT CLASSIC! FIVE STARS
  • DON'T MISS! FOUR STARS
  • DON'T WAIT! THREE STARS
  • DON'T RUSH! TWO STARS
  • DON'T BOTHER! ONE STAR

Covo’s take “Savages” 3 stars

Not your little Sunday-afternoon-at-the-movies experience – at all. This movie hits hard, cuts deep and has a Tarantino quality that can’t be overlooked.

Still, I found this movie very difficult to review – there is so much to love and at the same time – so much to hate. Part of the reason for my ambivalence is the fact that I expected a brains vs. brawn flick – and pretty much from the beginning – all the brains descended into the same hell as the brawn. 

Guess we are all "savages" after all.

But make no make mistake - Stone is the quintessential provacateur and the way this movie is framed, it seems clear to me he wants the audience to find their own way through. And that's hard work.

The film stars Taylor Kitsch and Aaron Johnson as two California marijuana growers and dealers, with Blake Lively as their lover and on the dark side, Salma Hayek as the head of the cartel, Benicio Del Toro as her underboss and John Travolta as the corrupt cop on the take whose wife is dying of cancer.

And Oliver Stone manages to cover the gamut, from the ménage a trios that worked so well on the screen that it doesn’t work, to the clever literary references, like when Elena aka “La Reina” and cartel boss realizes that at least for the moment, she has been defeated, and drops to her knees and pulls off her (gasp) wig!

Stark contrasts abound in the film, too, from the trio of “good” guys (presumably because they prefer not to behead bad credit risks) to the brilliant performances from the lady-like but extremely ruthless cartel boss on the south side of the border.

Perhaps I can’t make up my mind because the film can’t be defined. It is a very dark and violent film, but at the same time, can’t transcend the fact that it tries, sometimes successfully, to handle a boatload of themes like mother-daughter relationships, romance, betrayal ...

There are some fabulous performances in this film, particularly Hayek’s portrayal of the female drug lord which was absolutely brilliant – and may well be the best performance of her career. There are also some amazing visuals and particularly well-done cinematography.

Sandra Echeverria, who plays Elena’s estranged daughter in the film, shared a little with us about what it was like to work on the set with Stone.

“He loves to talk through the role and deeply explore the character, which was very helpful – he is also a strict director. You have to try to be perfect with Oliver Stone -- he is a perfectionist,” she explained.

And while there was clearly great attention to detail, this film is not for everyone, and definitely not for children. If you are an Oliver Stone fan – this is a must-see film. All others gauge your mood before you dare to enter Stone’s latest creation.

“Savages” opens nationwide July 6. The movie runs 2 hours and 10 minutes and is rated R.

Rocha’s take “Savages” 5 stars

Stone is back with his new goods, “Savages.” That’s what his characters call each other --  the good guys and the bad guys.

This is an instant classic, one you’ll watch every summer when you dial up classic Oliver Stone films. Why? As sure as Elias is running through the woods in “Platoon” the two main characters in "Savages" are running through a never ending obstacle course of drug cartel full-out violence in this film. 

The fight is about marijuana which Chon & Ben grow in labs in California which yield a high content of THC, the main psychoactive part of marijuana. The opening scene highlights a video blog emailed to Chon. The email isn’t friendly even though it’s intended to set up a meeting -- the video footage we get to see is shot in a dark, dank cavernous room where six heads lay on a bloodied floor and the bodies are chained to the wall.

“Savages” tells the tale of six characters mixed up in the drug business. Three of them are the “good” bad guys and the “bad” bad guys are portrayed by Salma Hayek, Benicio Del Toro and John Travolta.

Travolta plays a sleazy dirt bag cop on the take from both sides of the drug business, the cartel and the hippy green house pot growers. Benicio plays an epic under-boss in charge of punishments and hands-on management of the cartel, using chains and whips and no sign of intelligence -- and Del Toro plays it so well. Hayek plays an uptight drug lord in charge of all of it --It’s her look in the film which is bangs and that what you get in this western style movie.

Stone’s films are observations on pop culture. And this is another one of his special films -- I mean an epic filmic one because “Savages” is all story-telling – and taking the big risks because it’s opening between two super hero films, the Spiderman reboot and Batman.

The best scene in the film shows the interaction between drug cartel leader (Salma Hayek) and the innocent poor little rich girl who has two boyfriends played by Blake Lively. Both are La Reina in their savage worlds and square off over dinner, not in the cat fight sense. I guess one could call it cat fight – the light version -- because at this point in the movie, even though Elena has the girl hostage, the girl manages to verbally wound the lady drug lord.

Watch for it -- It’s a scene you can miss because it happens so fast,  if you blink, it's gone.

The actions scenes are real and done with military precision. Be ready to be challenged. Narrator voice-over: check, “Wild Bunch” ending: check, amazing cinematography: check, super ego/id: check, second ending whiskey tango foxtrot? You’ll have to go see for yourself.

Run, don’t walk to go see this film! The old Stone is back & firing on all pistons. I was adrenalized for the whole ride.

Just a word of caution: Definitely do not bring the kids – sex, drugs, violence and Salma warning!

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