Supporting cast overshadows in thriller ‘Savages’

Director Oliver Stone returns to the big screen with a new gritty, sexual and violent film.

Adapted from Don Winslow’s book of the same name, “Savages” takes you into the world of two California drug dealers who are unaware that they are involved in a love triangle with their shared-girlfriend as the three take on a powerful Mexican cartel.

Stone offers up a decent film that reminds viewers of his past efforts like “Natural Born Killers.”

While the story line is interesting, the real problem comes down to the three young leads that are overshadowed by the veteran supporting actors.

Ex-Navy SEAL Chon (Taylor Kitsch) and his peace-loving hippie friend Ben (Aaron Johnson) are living an extravagant lifestyle by selling designer marijuana.

Life is perfect until the head of the Baja Cartel, Elena Sanchez (Salma Hayek) decides to move in and demands a partnership.

When they refuse her offer, Elena sends her enforcer Lado (Benicio Del Toro) to kidnap their girlfriend Ophelia or O (Blake Lively), as she prefers to be called.

With the help of corrupt Drug Enforcement Administration agent Dennis (John Travolta), Chon and Ben go head-to-head against Elena to rescue O.

Much of the two hour-long film’s plot is explained via O’s voice-over.

She not only explains what is going on, but also elaborates on the characters since there is no real in-depth exploration of them because of what seems like a lack of interest on behalf of the three screenwriters.

The script also lacks simple explanations like how Chon, Ben and O’s relationship formed, how the boys came into contact with Dennis and how Elena knew about the boys.

As the film continues, the focus transitions from the three main characters to the supporting cast.

Kitsch and Lively’s performance seem flat and they try to do what they can with their characters, but there is no real intent to make them grow.

Johnson is left to do most of the heavy dramatic lifting, as his character is the only one with some complexity. He sets aside his peace-loving ways and is forced to become ruthless to rescue O.

The better performances come from Del Toro, Hayek and Travolta.

Travolta interjects some humor with his sometimes-manic agent, Del Toro easily plays a diabolical hitman while not going over the top, and Hayek’s Elena plays a powerful, merciless woman with a soft side.

Even though the three antagonists may come off a bit cartoonish a times, they are still far much more interesting than Kitsch, Johnson and Lively.

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