There are problems with the logic in Savages and the film is far too long, but if you have a sudden hankering for Oliver Stone in fine form, come on down.
Arresting visuals and grotesque violence distinguish this crime thriller. The story concerns Ben and Chon, a couple of a dope dealers from Laguna Beach who tangle with a Baja California drug cartel. They move from a laid-back business that operates with a California surf vibe to get involved -- not by choice -- with a murderous group of very serious drug businessmen.
Chon (Taylor Kitsch) is a former Navy Seal who acts as an enforcer on those rare occasions when he and Ben run into trouble. Ben (Aaron Taylor-Young) is a peaceful Buddhist botanist, the brains behind the superb herb these two sell. Both men are in love with O (short for Ophelia), a free spirit played by Blake Lively. They share her. It's an unusual way to live, perhaps, but it works for them.
It doesn't work quite so well for the audience. Lively is the weak link here, never managing to convey the irresistible quality that lets her holds two men and the whole plot in the palm of her hand. But never mind. There's so much more going on you may not even notice.
A Mexican drug cartel run by the ferocious Elena (Salma Hayek) wants to join forces with Chon and Ben. The boys aren't that interested. For one thing, the Mexicans have a very different business model, as their motivational videos of people getting tortured and having their heads chopped off can attest. When the villains kidnap O and threaten to kill her to move the deal along, Chon and Ben have to fight back with every resource they have. It gets messy.
Savages is filled with terrific types and supporting players, including John Travolta as a tricky DEA agent, Benicio del Toro as an oily henchman, Emile Hirsch as a money guy and Demian Bichir as a dignified villain.
As to who are the real savages -- the rich kids from California or the desperadoes from Mexico -- that's a coin toss. This is a dark, seamy, violent story cut with dark humour and laced with sex, drugs and rock 'n' roll. That's not to say you'll buy any of it, but it's a fun trip to experience.