Based on the book “Savages” by Don Winslow, the action thriller centers around Ben (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) and Chon (Taylor Kitsch), two marijuana growers whose success attracts the attention of a Mexican drug cartel headed by Elena Sánchez (Salma Hayek). When the pair refuses to go in to business with Elena, their shared girlfriend Ophelia (Blake Lively) is kidnapped.
“This whole movie’s about what two guys would do for someone they love,” said John Travolta, who co-stars in “Savages” as a corrupt DEA agent who helps Ben and Chon rescue Ophelia. “If you underbelly it all with that, now that’s an amazing great combination.”
“Savages” marks a return to form for Stone in the eyes of some critics. The filmmaker admits it was a “no-brainer” to helm the feature after reading Winslow’s book. So much so that he incorporated various influences to help shape his vision of the work for moviegoers. Nevertheless, the experience proved to be a challenge.
“It’s hard to pull off this kind of story,” Stone confessed, adding that he brought in “specialists in every category” to help make the film “as believable as possible.” “It was hard, an obstacle course because how do you make it interesting….How do you keep it fresh? I think it helps to have great actors.”
Despite Stone’s fears, Hayek is confident the director succeeded in making “Savages” a memorable film that goes deeper than what may be expected of a film of its type.
“I think that he reinvented his own style in this movie,” Hayek added about Stone. “It is so young, it is new. It’s completely refreshing…You can sense Oliver Stone in it, of course, but there is beauty in the way he interprets technology and who we are today and violence that it’s poetic and different.”
Although the violence in “Savages” may get more attention, Lively touts the love between Chon, Ophelia and Ben as a worthy contrast to the film’s hard edge.
“It’s a love story, which is exciting because it’s a really violent male movie but it’s also about love,” she said. “There’s something Shakespearean about it which is unbelievable in an Oliver Stone movie. And I love that, between the relationship, the actual love relationships and then the mother and daughter and the people that work for each other, the kidnapper and her victim.”
So with all the ins and outs in “Savages” the question remains as to who truly becomes the personification of the title of the film. In the eyes of film’s stars and director, the answer is simple.
“All of us,” say Travolta and Kitsch.
“Aren’t we all to some degree?” Stone chimed in. “I mean the question is of degree, to what degree do you cross the boundaries of what’s right and what’s wrong.”
While agreeing with her co-stars, Lively offers an unexpected addition into the mix.
“Me, you, everyone, but also the audience is too,” said the actress. “That’s what’s interesting. It’s interesting because for me, you’re looking at this young girl, and you’re thinking ‘How can she be with two men? How can she do that?’
“And you’re sitting there, judging her and then it’s turned around on yourself when you think ‘Well, like, am I a part of this? Am I a part of the world where relationships are so disposable, where people hurt each other, where there are so many broken marriages? Am I a part of this system where all of human interaction is on a computer? Am I a part of removing that?” Lively continued. “That’s what’s neat is that the audience is the audience becomes one of the savages.”
“Savages” is in theaters now.