Over the weekend, I decided to watch Savages, an American thriller directed by Oliver Stone. The film features Blake Lively who acts as the main protagonist who assists with a successful marijuana company with her two best friends, Chon (Taylor Kitsch) and Ben (Aaron Taylor Johnson) So, what were my very first impressions of the film? Towards the very beginning, the amount of violence, sex and gore was very over the top, in fact the entire film was slightly over dramatic.
There was definitely a slow build and I was more impressed with visual effects and the car explosions rather than the storyline or the dialogue. Lively did play a very unenthusiastic character and the dialogue was very boring to begin with, the actual kidnapping was the most shocking part of the film. There were several times were I started to lose interest, although it was Benicio Del Toro’s ruthless and vindictive character, Lado that convinced me to watch the rest of the film.
Lado is apart of the drug cartel and his violent, corrupt behaviour does deliver a strong impact within Oliver Stone’s, Savages. Lado is the reason why so many characters die in one giant blood bath, wherever there is Lado, you know that you’ll be expecting blood left right and centre. Benicio Del Toro does play an excellent villain along with Salma Hyek as Elena who owns the notorious drug cartel in Mexico. Without Del Toro or Hyek, the film would seriously lack any sort of impact or shock, the storyline would be rather flat without these two particular characters.
In Savages, there is a strong reference to the Mexican sugar skulls, through the masks that are worn by Chon and Ben who begin to terrorise members of the drug cartel. This is basically the reason why I am writing about this film in the first place; the masks feature decorative patterns and designs that add an interesting effect to the overall film.
Both Ben and Chun wearing sugar skull masks
While Savages features a strong reference to the drug trade in Mexico, the sugar skull masks may reflect both Chun and Ben’s opposition to this violent activity. In the past, the Mexican community have used skull masks as a way to protest against the drug trade, I have often wondered whether Chun and Ben use the skull as a way to retaliate against the drug cartel.
Who knows really, while there are plenty of reviews on Oliver Stone’s, Savages, there is limited information in terms of the symbology behind the sugar skull masks. Lado also wears a skeletal handkerchief during the very start of the film; in a way the skull features a strong parallel between life and death, Savages also features a strong reference to the Mexican Day of the Dead Festival through the skeletal figurines and the sugar skulls.
Lado wearing a skeletal handkerchief
Overall, the costumes, the props and the masks were visually interesting, although the dialogue didn’t make much sense in terms of the storyline or the narrative, in fact the film would have been better if they didn’t use Blake Lively as the dialogue. While Savages featured some very violent scenes, the film was rather glamorous and superficial, even the storyline was predictable. Savages was rather tame for a film that represents the Mexican drug cartels; don’t get me wrong, I have enjoyed watching the film, it was a little too dramatic for my liking.
Nevertheless, Savages is still a good film with some astounding actors and some remarkable visual effects, if you are comfortable watching violent films then Savages is perfect if you have nothing else planned on a Saturday afternoon. For more information please click on the links below.