Blu-ray Review: Savages

Savages Blu-ray boxSTUDIO: Universal | DIRECTOR: Oliver Stone | CAST: Aaron Johnson, Taylor Kitsch, Blake Lively, Salma Hayek, Benecio Del Toro, John Travolta, Shea Whigham
BLU-RAY & DVD RELEASE DATE: 11/13/2012 | PRICE: DVD $29.98, Blu-ray $34.98
BONUSES: commentary, featurettes, deleted scenes
SPECS: R/UR | 171/182 min. | Crime | 2.40:1 aspect ratio | 5.1 DTS-HD audio | English, Spanish, French subtitles

RATINGS (out of 5 dishes): Movie | Audio | Video | Overall

SavagesSavages is far from Oliver Stone’s (Platoon) best movie. It looks great, with gorgeous color, beautiful ocean shots and dark, bloody scenes for contrast. But an unnecessary voiceover and a big hole in the story let down the film, which at its best is just another run of the mill drug thriller.

Based on the novel by Don Winslow (The Death and Life of Bobby Z), Savages tells the story of pot dealers Ben (Aaron Johnson, Nowhere Boy) and Chon (Taylor Kitsch, John Carter) whose impressive product and clean — mostly clean — business are coveted by the Mexican cartel run by the ruthless Elena (Salma Hayek, Americano). When Ben and Chon refuse the cartel’s deal and make plans to run, Hayek orders the men’s joint girlfriend O (Blake Lively, TV’s Gossip Girl) to be kidnapped, starting a war that escalates between the two sides.

The biggest problem with the movie is that, in order to follow the kidnapping story, we have to buy how it happens. But if Ben and Chon are so smart that they’ve built this successful drug business, when they’re getting ready to run, why would they let their girlfriend go to the mall, much less by herself? Sure, they send one of their mercenary friends to look after her, but why does he go in a separate car? And when he doesn’t show up at the mall, is she really that stupid that she doesn’t notice?

If you can get over that, there’s still the narration by Lively, which is unnecessary and annoying. But worse of all is the ending. SPOILER ALERT I thought the double ending had to be a decision made after focus groups, but no. Stone reveals in his commentary that it was his idea because he didn’t like the novel’s downer ending. So instead of changing it, he put in those scenes, then rewound for his own happier ending. Unfortunately, the effect is worthy of eye rolls. END SPOILER

Blu-ray’s high-definition video and audio serve the movie well, and the disc has an unrated version of the film with an extra 11 minutes of footage. Mainly, the new material shows additional scenes with Benecio Del Toro (The Wolfman) as Elena’s henchman and John Travolta (From Paris With Love) as the crooked DEA agent working with both sides. We see both with their family, especially Del Toro in multiple scenes abusing his wife.

On the special features side, the best on the disc is the five-part making-of documentary. Stone, the actors, novelist and co-writer Winslow and others are interviewed and shown behind the scenes. We get a look into the locations, the experts (including a cannabis consultant) and the shooting. There’s a fun part with Del Toro acting as a fanboy as he talks about his love of Grease and meeting Travolta for the first time.

The disc also offers nine deleted scenes, which are mostly extended scenes, and a commentary from Stone, which has some interesting information but might be a bit dry for anyone but the director’s most devout fans. At one point near the end, Stone spends about 10 minutes discussing the cloud coverage during one particular day of shooting. It’s one of the more boring parts of the track.


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About S. Clark

Sam Clark is the former Managing Editor/Online Editor of Video Business magazine. With 19 years experience in journalism, 12 in the home entertainment industry, Sam has been hooked on movies on since she saw E.T. then stared into the sky waiting to meet her own friendly alien. Thanks to her husband’s shared love of movies, Sam reviews Blu-ray discs in a true home theater, with a 118-inch screen, projector and cushy recliners with cup holders.