Few films deliver on everything touted by their advertisements. Many movies promise adventure, sex, guns, drugs, and beautiful women, but few can actually keep you enthralled. Savages is a work of art that succeeds where so many others fail.

The film starts with some images of O (Ophelia – Blake Lively) and a saddened voice-over, setting the stage for the serious events to come. “O” begins the story by introducing the two loves of her life: Chon (Taylor Kitsch) and Ben (Aaron Johnson). The two are polar opposites, and she provides a detailed retelling of how they started as high school friends, then later became business partners upon Chon’s return from Afghanistan. Their decision: to grow and sell weed.

As time goes on, Chon and Ben start producing what is referred to as “the best bud in the world,” thanks to Ben’s knowledge of botany. While Ben handles the 99% of the business and keeps everything (legal and illegal) running smoothly, SEAL-trained Chon deals with the unsavory 1%. Together they are a weed-producing powerhouse.

Enter O, whose beauty and love becomes shared by both. As the film’s plot unfolds, a Mexican cartel headed by the beautiful widow Elana (Selma Hayek) tries to move into the area. Elena uses her top bruiser, Lado (Benecio Del Toro), to force the two young entrepreneurs to merge their business with hers. The deal seems to benefit everyone, and the boys stand to make ten times the fortune they already have. Unfortunately, their laid back business clashes with the way the cartel does things.

Ben and Chon reach out to Dennis (John Travolta), the DEA agent on their payroll. He tries to warn them about the inevitable downsides to dealing with the cartel. The situation takes a heart-wrenching turn for the worse when Elena kidnaps O and sends the two peaceful boys into a tempest of drugs and violence.

Oliver Stone’s presence in the film industry is legendary, but he’s kept a low profile in recent years. This film pushes him back to the forefront of the directorial elite.

The film is based on a novel of the same name by Don Winslow, who co-wrote the screenplay, and includes harsh torture, graphic sex, and more gunshots than one might reasonably expect from a motion picture. The casting and acting is top notch, but it’s Oliver Stone’s vision that ties all the ingredients together to produce a masterpiece. I was genuinely surprised at the quality of Savages, and I encourage anyone who can stomach the violence, sex, and drugs, to go see it. You will not be disappointed.

My only criticism (or perhaps point of confusion) is the inconsistency in the character of O. Blake Lively portrays her as intelligent and well-spoken during the voice overs, but those traits are lost in her actual acting through most of the film. She seems to be an entirely different character. Her drug-infused, valley-girl mannerisms stand in stark contrast to the seriousness of her words during the beginning and end of the film. Regardless, Blake is one of the most attractive women in Hollywood, and the eye-candy doesn’t go unappreciated.

All in all, Savages is worth your time and your money.

4 out of 5 Stars

Edited By: Jeff Boehm.