Alert Sign Dear reader, online ads enable us to deliver the journalism you value. Please support us by taking a moment to turn off Adblock on

Alert Sign Dear reader, please upgrade to the latest version of IE to have a better reading experience


Animadversion: Dirty, rotten Savages

August 11, 2012


For those like me, who have little familiarity with Don Winslow’s novel (which he adapts with Shane Salerno and Oliver Stone), Stone’s jarring, zig-zagging outlaw movie about industrialised pot-makers in Laguna beach and Mexico may seem more in tune with the director’s self-brewed tempestuous style than its source.

However, Stone’s evolution, though once maverick andalienating, feels stable now. So now, when Stone’s narrative centersitself on the voice of “O” — (Blake Lively) the girl we know is going to die at the end, because she says so herself — and suddenly the colour tone shifts to extreme contrast, or black-and-white, or a cell-phone look, we don’t feel “jolted” the way we used to.

In a way the film’s sense of electricity simply changes shape and becomes characters.

Cohn and Ben (Taylor Kitsch and Aaron Johnson) are best yin-yang buds working up a semi-legalised dope business (they sell to the streets as well as pharmas). Ben is a double-major in botany and business, and he has a clean conscious. Cohn has the skills of a tactically-minded goon — a knack he refined in his Middle Eastern tours with the army. As O’s opening narration tells us, Cohn’s army tour was a sly trick: he smuggled back Prime seeds for Californian-cultivation.

O is the embodiment of today’s youth; a vague, drifting, young woman addicted to dope since eighth grade and openly sexual.

She is both Cohn and Ben’s shared centre, and their love interest. The three-way and very open love affair is self-evident — sometimes too graphically; it lives the moment without emotional complications and expects the viewer to accept it for what it is. The film catapults itself into a drug war, feverishly cutting back and forth into parallel side-characters — Benicio Del Toro, Demian Bichir, Selma Hayek, John Travolta — it is the three’s shared love that grounds the film’s aptitude for exuberance. As Stone tells us: savagery is civilised, and innocence is not overrated — and it all depends on where you stand.

Released by Universal, Savages is rated R for sex, violence and drug use.

Dance to the music

Step Up, the continuously returning series of dance, music and no plot, bounces back with its fourth part, Revolution. While the series was never big on plot and storytelling, this one keeps close to pedestrian imagination with two trending gimmicks: YouTube and flash mobbing.

Sean (Ryan Guzman), with Channing Tatum-like charm and features, is a waiter in a hotel. He lives with his sister and niece and leads a flash mob called MOB. He and his troupe aim to get a chance to hit big with a viral video. How do they achieve that? As a flash mob, they pop out from crowds and start dancing to awesome background music with choreographed precision. Their act, which opens the movie, borderlines to a public disturbance charge.

Sean finds love in contemporary dancer Emily Anderson (Kathryn McCormick of So You Think You Can Dance fame). Her daddy (Peter Gallagher) is the rich developer who has plans to tear down and redevelop the area Sean and most his troupe reside along with their Pop Tate-like hangout. Sean and Co. demonstrate protest through their flash mob routines between the first and second half of the unimaginative screenplay by Amanda Brody that’s executed with insipid direction from Scott Speer.

Speer’s only redemption comes from the movie’s dance routines which are handled with semi-music video approach. The acting by the principal cast is abysmal but it is forgivable as it’s a first feature for most of the film’s actors. The cast is good at what it does best — dance. The film flies high, especially during the protest routines in the office and the films climax.

While the dancing itself is nothing like Step Up 3D, it will still get your attention. Keep eyes open for cameo of some franchise alumni. It may be the only saving grace this movie has.

Released by Summit, Step Up Revolution is rated PG-13. Expect a lot of bodies pulsating to the beat of music. — Farheen Jawaid