Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Savages (Oliver Stone, 2012) -- C-

Oliver Stone's Natural Born Killers often divides viewers and critics alike, primarily for its aggressive variance of styles; whether the faux-Rodney Dangerfield sitcom that brazenly satirizes consumer passivity, the extremely canted angles that switch from grainy black & white to heavily saturated color, or the forceful political commentary rooted in an ambivalent critique of media ethics (hypocritical condemnation of violence while reveling in the aesthetic joys - much like the film, itself) nothing about Stone's nihilistic, kaleidoscopic masterpiece (to this viewer) settles for stable representation. His cinematic world is always in flux - morality cannot exist (just as aesthetics are susceptible to paradigm shifts) with such a jarring misplacement of ethos and capital. Savages, on the contrary, is the ugly, nonsense film many Natural Born Killers detractors claim. It is pornohistoriography. Stone is less interested in producing a stringent critique of screen violence than using late 20th century drug wars as an "epic" milieu for his deranged semiotics. Whereas Mickey and Mallory Knox (Woody Harrelson and Julliette Lewis) were caricature-cum-metonymic figures for Stone's necessary sensorial overload, Ben (Aaron Johnson) and Chon (Taylor Kitsch) are indulgent, explicit mouthpieces for Stone and writer Don Winslow's existential leftist concerns. Savages views sex, violence, and drug use the way one might expect from a fifteen-year old weaned on Red Bull and Grand Theft Auto. Everything is a money shot.

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