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Savages review

Natural born dealers…

Twitchy Afghanistan war vet Chon (Taylor Kitsch), his surfer-dude best bud Ben (Aaron Johnson), and their it’s-complicated communal girlfriend O (Blake Lively) spend their time running a multi-million-dollar weed business.

Their breezy, idyllic lifestyle is rudely interrupted when a Mexican drug cartel moves into town, demanding a cut of their take.

When our heroes refuse, O is snatched from a shopping spree and held at axe-point for ransom.

Cue bloodbath… Oliver Stone has spent most of the last decade crafting political-tragic dramas and Fidel Castro docs, which is why Savages , whose closest cousin is Natural Born Killers , is such a surprising about-face.

It’s a frothy B-movie cocktail served in a big-budget goblet, complete with an A-list supporting cast of weird-haired kooks (Benicio Del Toro as a mulleted thug, John Travolta as a balding crooked cop, Salma Hayek as a femme fatale with a Cleopatra cut), perfume-ad visuals, several (fully clothed) threesomes, and some jaw-dropping, eye-rolling, cheeseball dialogue (“I have orgasms. Chon has wargasms”).

It’s lightweight, empty-skulled stuff, sun-dappled and dreamy, punctuated with splatter-movie carnage. Hayek, as the beyond-ruthless drug queenpin Elena, is the standout; a smirking death-goddess with a mile-long mean streak.

As for the leads, it’s clear Stone hired most of them for their profiles: at least half the film is dedicated to close-ups of their pretty mugs.

The face-fetishising is distracting, but manageable. The same can’t be said for the cop-out finale, which is a cheat, plain and simple. Still, Savages is a brisk, bloody howl.

Savages is punishing in places, but there are enough colourful characters and careening twists to make it worth the effort.

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Ken McIntyre

Ken McIntyre is a freelance writer who has spent years covering music and film. You'll find Ken in the pages of Total Film and here on GamesRadar, using his experience and expertise to dive into the history of cinema and review the latest films. You'll also find him writing features and columns for other Future Plc brands, such as Metal Hammer and Classic Rock magazine.