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September 19, 2017

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A stoned threesome enters a bad trip

Entrepreneurs Ben (Aaron Johnson), an Ivy-League scholar and philanthropist, and his best friend Chon (Taylor Kitsch), an ex-Navy Seal bad ass, grow the best cannabis in Southern California and run the most powerful weed empire in the state. The two friends also share the love of their mutual girlfriend Ophelia (Blake Lively). The trio lives peacefully in their idyllic world until the Mexican Baja Cartel (BC) wants to partner up with them. They refuse the offer which offends the cruel head of the Mexican BC, Elena (Salma Hayek), and her ruthless enforcer Lado (Benicio del Toro) who take on Ben and Chon by disrupting the trio's unbreakable friendship. Ben and Chon, together with corrupt DEA agent Dennis (John Travolta), engage in an unseemly battle with the cartel.

Oscar winning producer Oliver Stone ("Any Given Sunday") delivers a graphically violent, yet aesthetically appealing picture that deals with both modern sensibilities and the savages lurking in the underbelly of society. Stone transforms Don Winslow's novel "Savages" by conveying a cool soundtrack, intimate close-ups and enchanting visuals that give the movie an energetic flair. Yet, a handful of brutal scenes, including a painfully violent torture scene, show this movie is not cut out for everyone.

The movie repeatedly plays around with the word "savage," as the Mexican cartel describes the young protagonists, who disapprove of their household threesome. The Mexican characters, on the other hand, are also savages who cut people's heads off and generally play to the unoriginal Mexican drug cartel stereotype. Ophelia's narration defines savages as "cruel, regressed back to a primal state of being." Laying out different interpretations on savage, Stone obviously leads his audience to ponder more about its moral ambiguity, while absorbing the film's main plot.

Beautiful Blake goes by the name "O," short for Ophelia. The naïve young woman comes from a broken home, whose free-spirited hippie role transcends beyond complicated and vague relationships in today's rather cynical generation. She briefly explains the dynamics of their polyamorous ties: Ben being "earth and soft wood," while Chon is "cold metal," and she is "the home that neither of them ever had."

Realistically, few men would agree on such a relationship while living under the same roof, especially if one of the two guys is an ex-mercenary whose fuse is ready to blow off at any given moment — then again, they are constantly stoned.

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