Savages (2012 film)

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Savages poster.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed by Oliver Stone
Produced by
Screenplay by
Based on Savages 
by Don Winslow
Music by Adam Peters
Cinematography Dan Mindel
Edited by
Distributed by Universal Pictures
Release dates
  • July 6, 2012 (2012-07-06)
Running time
130 minutes[1]
Country United States
Language English
Budget $45 million[2]
Box office $83 million[3]

Savages is a 2012 American crime thriller film directed by Oliver Stone. It is based on the novel of the same name by Don Winslow. The screenplay was written by Shane Salerno, Stone, and Winslow. The film was released on July 6, 2012, and stars Taylor Kitsch, Blake Lively, Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Demian Bichir, Benicio del Toro, Salma Hayek, John Travolta, and Emile Hirsch.[4]


Best friends Chon (Taylor Kitsch) and Ben (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) are marijuana growers living in Laguna Beach, California. Chon, a former Navy SEAL, smuggled the seeds for the plants out of Afghanistan, and got help in cultivating them from Ben, a graduate of University of California, Berkeley in business and botany. These seeds yielded a particularly potent strain of marijuana that soon developed a wide customer base and made Chon and Ben very wealthy, with Ben devoting time and money to doing charity work in Africa and Asia. The two are in a relationship with Ophelia Sage (Blake Lively).

The trio receive a video from Mexican cartel enforcer Miguel "Lado" Arroyo (Benicio del Toro). The video shows several severed heads and a chainsaw, and demands a meeting. The cartel offers a partnership, but Chon and Ben offer to hand over their network and get out of the business. The cartel wants their expertise and insists on a partnership, Chon and Ben make plans with Ophelia to leave and go to Indonesia for a year, not telling her that they are fleeing from the cartel. Chon and Ben speak to corrupt DEA agent Dennis Cain (John Travolta) who urges them to partner with the cartel. Ophelia is kidnapped by Lado's crew. Chon and Ben are notified of Ophelia's kidnapping via a video call from cartel leader Elena Sánchez (Salma Hayek), who threatens to harm Ophelia before again urging the two to partner with the cartel.

Chon and Ben speak with Dennis about the situation, who informs them that Elena is facing the loss of her political connections in Mexico, thus her efforts to move into the US. She has already lost her entire family, and Dennis has nothing on her that can help them. Chon stabs Dennis in the hand, ordering Dennis to provide DEA intel so Ben and Chon can retaliate against Elena. With help from Chon's Navy SEAL friends, the duo attacks a cartel money convoy, killing seven of Elena's men.

Ophelia is being kept in horrible living conditions and demands to speak to whoever is in charge. After she speaks to Elena, Lado drugs and rapes Ophelia while recording it as revenge for going over his head. Elena decides to come to the US to visit her daughter and deal with the escalating situation, and has Ophelia brought to where she is staying. Chon & Ben decide to frame Alex (Demián Bichir), a high-ranking member of the cartel, as a rat working with Elena's rival El Azul. With help from Dennis, they falsify the evidence and give it to Lado, who tortures Alex before forcing Ben to immolate him while Ophelia watches on TV. While being tortured, the man begs for his life "on Magda", revealing to Chon and Ben that Elena's daughter is still alive. Meanwhile, Lado decides that it is in his best interest to double-cross Elena and begin working with El Azul.

Ben and Chon bribe Dennis for information on Magda (Sandra Echeverria), ultimately paying him $3 million for the information and the name of his snitch in Elena's cartel. After kidnapping Magda, Ben and Chon video call Elena, establishing that they are now in control. With Elena at their mercy, the two arrange a meeting, at which point both Ophelia and Magda will be released. The exchange is set to occur in the middle of the desert, with snipers from both sides prepared to fire. Elena requests to know the identity of the man who revealed the location of her daughter, and Chon reveals that it was Lado. Elena attempts to kill Lado, but he shoots her first. An intense firefight erupts, with Chon being shot several times. Lado is shot in the back by Ben, but manages to shoot Ben in the neck before being killed by Ophelia. With Ben mortally wounded, Chon injects Ben, himself, and Ophelia with a fatal overdose, so the three can die together.

It is revealed that this sequence is how Ophelia feared the events would transpire. In reality, Lado steals Elena's car and drives off as DEA agents arrive, led by Dennis. Everyone at the meeting, except Lado and Magda, is arrested, but since Ben possesses incriminating information on Dennis, Dennis names Ben and Chon as his informants for the past six years, leading to them being released. Elena is sentenced to thirty years in prison, and El Azul and Lado create a new cartel called "The Azulados". Ben, Chon, and Ophelia leave the country. The trio are shown living in a hut by a beach, possibly in Indonesia, as the camera pulls out with Ophelia wondering if they're living as savages now.



"We had two weeks rehearsal, so we talked about it until we were about to pass out. I think I had known Blake for three or four days, before we shot [those scenes]. That was the first week of shooting. It was just about trusting Blake and Oliver, like you do on any set. I was just glad it was over with, to be honest. It's very awkward to do. It's such a big part of Chon and who he is. That's how you meet him, so it's a pretty intense reveal, no pun intended. It's all part of it, but I was glad it was in the first week."

— Kitsch on shooting the sex scenes[5]

By August 2011, the film was shooting in the Pacific Palisades neighborhood of Los Angeles.[4] The Los Angeles Times reported: "The estate's indoor pool was converted into a massive hydroponic marijuana farm for the film's production, with about 300 high-octane pot plants jamming the covert nursery."[6] Production designer Tomas Voth, said: "I wanted to use real plants and had them all ready to go, but it was some legal thing. Universal told us to use fakes."[6] The sex scenes were filmed during the first three days.[7] The film entered post-production in October 2011.


Jennifer Lawrence was originally cast as Ophelia, but dropped out due to scheduling conflicts.[8] Other actresses considered to replace Lawrence included Olivia Wilde, Teresa Palmer, and Abbie Cornish.[9] In April 2011, it was reported that Blake Lively had been cast as Ophelia.[10] Before casting Taylor Kitsch in the film, Oliver Stone asked director Peter Berg to show him 30 minutes of Kitsch's work in Battleship to see how he was as a leading man, and after seeing that footage, he cast him.[11] Trevor Donovan originally auditioned for a role that was cut but after seeing Donovan's tape, Stone specifically wrote him a part that was not in the book.[12] Uma Thurman played Ophelia's mother, Paqu, but her scenes were cut due to time constraints.[13]


Critical reception[edit]

The red-carpet premiere at Fox Village Theater on June 25, 2012.

Savages received mixed reviews from critics. Based on 168 reviews collected by aggregate site Rotten Tomatoes, the film scored a 51% approval rating, with an average rating of 5.7/10. The site's critical consensus is, "It's undeniably messy, but Savages finds Oliver Stone returning to dark, fearlessly lurid form."[14] Metacritic, another review aggregator which assigns a weighted mean rating in the 0–100 range based on reviews from top mainstream critics, calculated an average score of 59, based on 41 reviews, which indicates "Mixed or average reviews".[15]

The film was somewhat better received in Europe. UK film and music journalist Dylan B Jones praised it, claiming director Oliver Stone had found "a magic strain of sultry sex, frantically emotional turmoil and glossily savvy action sequences".

Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times gave the film three and a half stars (out of four) and praised Oliver Stone's direction, saying, "Much of the fascination of 'Savages' comes through Stone's treatment of the negotiations, which involve percentages, sliding scales over three years, an ultimate payout, and other financial details that drugs have in common with big business. It's spellbinding to watch the two sides trying to outthink each other."

HitFix's film critic Drew McWeeny gave the film an A- and called it "one of the most complete pleasures for me this summer". He was in general positive of the actors' performances; he described Lively's work as "smart and sad precisely because she plays O as such a broken, needy little soul" and praised the bond between Kitsch and Taylor-Johnson which "seems not only credible but lived in and authentic throughout the film."[16] In comparison, MovieFix's film critic Connor Jason gave the film 2/5, noting that "Savages is a hot mess – beautiful actors and locations mixed with a plot that starts strong but ultimately turns into a snooze-fest. With a lead villain seemingly ripped from the cover of Cosmo magazine, Stone's latest flick savagely disappoints."[17]

The film was nominated at the 2012 ALMA Awards in four categories including "Favorite Movie Actor", "Favorite Movie Actress—Drama/Adventure", "Favorite Movie Actor—Supporting Role", and "Favorite Movie Actress—Supporting Role" for Benicio Del Toro, Salma Hayek, Demián Bichir and Mia Maestro, respectively.[18]

Box office[edit]

On its opening weekend, the film ranked fourth at the box-office, earning $16.2 million.[19] As of April 3, 2013 it has grossed $47,382,068 in North America and $35,584,084 in other countries, for a worldwide total of $82,966,152.[3]

Home media[edit]

Savages was released on DVD and Blu-ray on November 13, 2012.


  1. ^ "SAVAGES (15)". British Board of Film Classification. August 17, 2012. Retrieved July 27, 2015. 
  2. ^ Kaufman, Amy (July 5, 2012). "'Katy Perry,' 'Savages' will get caught in 'Spider-Man's' web". Los Angeles Times. Tribune Company. Retrieved August 24, 2012. 
  3. ^ a b "Savages (2012)". Box Office Mojo (Internet Movie Database). Retrieved September 8, 2012. 
  4. ^ a b "Wakey Wakey Blake! Drowsy Miss Lively needs an ice tea kick on the set of Savages". Daily Mail (United Kingdom). August 20, 2011. Archived from the original on October 4, 2011. Retrieved October 4, 2011. 
  5. ^ Radish, Christina (July 4, 2012). "Taylor Kitsch Talks SAVAGES, Working with Oliver Stone and John Travolta, Filming Sex Scenes and Avoiding Green Screens". Retrieved August 25, 2012. 
  6. ^ a b Horn, John (July 4, 2012). "Oliver Stone aims for a fresh hit with 'Savages'". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved February 7, 2013. 
  7. ^ "Lively talks about sex scenes". Toronto Sun. Sun Media. June 19, 2012. Retrieved June 22, 2012. 
  8. ^ Fleming, Mike (February 10, 2011). "Oscar Nominee Jennifer Lawrence In Talks For Oliver Stone’s ‘Savages’". PMC. Retrieved April 19, 2012. 
  9. ^ Jaugernauth, Kevin (March 28, 2011). "Blake Lively, Abbie Cornish & Teresa Palmer Reading For Oliver Stone's 'Savages'; Uni Picks Up Film". IndieWire. Retrieved April 19, 2012. 
  10. ^ Bettinger, Brendan (April 21, 2011). "Blake Lively, John Travolta, and Uma Thurman Join Taylor Kitsch and Aaron Johnson SAVAGES". Retrieved April 19, 2012. 
  11. ^ Adam B. Vary (February 24, 2012). "Taylor Kitsch: His Make-Or-Break Year". Entertainment Weekly. Time Inc. p. 2. Retrieved April 19, 2012. 
  12. ^ Malkin, Marc (April 23, 2012). "Oliver Stone Wrote a Part in His New Movie for Who? (Hint: A 90210 Star!)". E! Online. NBCUniversal. Retrieved May 26, 2012. 
  13. ^ Michael Hogan (June 20, 2012). "Oliver Stone, 'Savages' Director, On Graphic Sex Scenes, The War On Drugs And Barack Obama". Huffington Post. AOL. Retrieved June 20, 2012. 
  14. ^ "Savages (2012)". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved October 22, 2012. 
  15. ^ "The Adventures of Tintin". Metacritic. Retrieved October 22, 2012. 
  16. ^ McWeeny, Drew (June 30, 2012). "Review: Oliver Stone turns Aaron Johnson, Taylor Kitsch, and Blake Lively into 'Savages'". HitFix. Retrieved August 24, 2012. 
  17. ^ Jason, Connor. "Review: A film worth savaging". Moviefix. Retrieved October 20, 2012. 
  18. ^ Gratereaux, Alexandra (July 10, 2012). "2012 NCLR/ ALMA Awards Nominees Include Jennifer Lopez, Pitbull & Selena Gomez". Fox News. Retrieved December 8, 2012. 
  19. ^ Bell, Crystal (July 8, 2012). "'Amazing Spider-Man' Box Office: Spidey Makes $140 Million In 6 Days". The Huffington Post. AOL. Retrieved August 26, 2012. 

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