Directed by Oliver Stone. Starring Taylor Kitsch, Blake Lively, Aaron Taylor-Johnson, John Travolta, Benicio Del Toro, Salma Hayek, Demián Bichir, Emile Hirsch 16 cert, general release, 129 min
BLAKE LIVELY is O, the Spam filling in a menage-a-trios padded out by Taylor Kitsch and Aaron Taylor-Johnson, two California dope-growers whose horticultural efforts come to the attention of a Mexican cartel led by Salma Hayek (in a pound-shop Halloween wig) and muscled by an eveeeel Benicio Del Toro.
It’s complicated, as rogue cop John Travolta explains from behind his Count Chocula(?) make-up. In the ensuing convolutions over a $3 million dollar score, O is kidnapped and Hayek’s teen daughter is counter- kidnapped. The Mexploitation fall-out runs to explosives, rape, death by flame-thrower and a cavalcade of unconvincing plot turns.
In case we missed Oliver Stone’s name on the credits, the flashes of monochrome and MTV doodles get underway before the opening credits are spent. As ever, the director has bigger fish to fry, and the painfully faux hard-boiled dialogue (“I have orgasms; he has war-gasms“) occasionally strays into geopolitics and marijuana legislation before nonsensical capering is resumed.
Savages desperately wants to be trashy sub-Tarantino fun in the manner of Wild Things or Stone’s own U-Turn. Unhappily, the film is no-fun sub-Tarantino trash in the manner of Be Cool or Stone’s own Natural Born Killers.
The cast hang, draw and quarter the already flimsy material into incompatible smithereens. Hayek and Del Toro are in their own telenovela with cultural notes supplied by Speedy Gonzalez; Taylor-Johnson thinks he’s in Jackie Brown; Travolta knows he’s in rubbish; Kitsch is en route to oblivion on the back of John Carter, Battleship and this baby.
Blake Lively works hard at turning her surname into an ironic punchline in a role that’s equal parts slapper, bimbo and distressed damsel. Her wittering monotone voiceover and many sheet-grasping group sex scenes confirm this as the least dignified female turn we’ve seen since Lindsay Lohan cavorted topless and chained to her onscreen mom in Machete.
We blame the writers. Working from his own novel, Don Winslow’s screenplay (co-written with Stone and Alien vs Predator scribe Shane Salerno) can’t decide between laid-back California cool, loudmouth Latin, ultraviolence and philosophising. We’re supposed to think the reference to Pauline Réage’s original mummy porn gangsta, The Story of O, is postmodern; we’re supposed to marvel at how the film shoehorns the internet – have you heard about this thing? – into the muddled machinations.
No and no. Dan Mindel’s sun- drenched cinematography brings a welcome blast of lumens, but the rest is neither big nor clever. Savage is right.