How many films have there been about drug dealers? Too many to count.How many films have there been about the naivete of a drug dealer when it comes to dealing with a Latino drug cartel? Well, there probably have been a few of those as well, but the only one that comes to mind is Al Pacino's classic "Scarface".


Oliver Stone, who is best remembered for "Platoon", "JFK", "Wall Street", "Natural Born Killers" and "Any Given Sunday" has been in a mediocre funk. His last few films "Alexander", "World Trade Center", "W", and "Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps" haven't been so good. (Although I don't think that "W" and "Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps" were that bad - it's just that they followed the totally awful "Alexander").


So the question followed was: Has Stine lost his touch?

His latest film "Savages" is a clear indication that he has not lost his touch, but may need to revisit his past more. Because this is clearly a revisit to his "Natural Born Killers" and "Any Given Sunday". But were he succeeded in perfect casting in "Natural Born Killers" he gets only half right this time.


Aaron Johnson, Taylor Kitsch and Blake Lively are Ben, Chon and O - a threesome involved in a happy-go-lucky relationship with O getting the best of both worlds. Ben is the smart pacifist and Chon is the rough-n-tough former Navy Seal. Together, they add up to one... for O. O is a kind of ditsy, free spirit that works well for the guys.


Anyway Ben and Chon are also drug dealers who have - through the brains of Ben put together a very profitable west coast drug industry in laid back Laguna Beach California. Surfers, chicks and drugs! Easy going and very profitable.


But paradise is interrupted when they a visited by a representative from a certain Latin drug cartel headed by Elena (Salma Hayek) who doesn't take crap from anybody. The proposition is simply this: join us and give up 20% off the top or else!


Now Ben, the pacifist pretty much decides he'd rather give in and not argue while Chon wants to send a little message instead.

While they are debating the pros and cons with their snake-in-the-grass DEA pal Dennis (John Travolta), another cartel member named Lado (Benicio Del Toro) comes along a scoops up O and holds her hostage.


Now the cartel's cards are on the table and a decision must be made - either Ben's pacifist way or Chon's kick ass way. I say it that way, because you might remember Johnson as "Kick Ass" in the 2010 film of the same name.


Things now heat up as they go with Chon's way and we get to see Ben go from pacifist to cold stone killer in 60 minutes or so. Now we get to the "Natural Born Killers" stuff we were looking for and there is plenty of it.


Let it be said the Benicio Del Toro is magnificent in his usual bad guy role. Hayek actually impressed me as a drug lord, though in reality there is to much machismo for a woman to be head of a cartel. She nevertheless is believable as a ruthless evil bad girl (I'm keeping it clean). She even has a sexy scene involving her feet that was, uh... provocative!


But where it loses it's impact is with Kitsch, Johnson and Lively. They are a threesome that isn't as kinky as they should be nor as lovable as they need to be. You may actually

want them to get killed. You don't find yourself pulling for them as you did for Tony Montana in "Scarface". The three are members of Hollywood's beautiful people, but really don't fit in their roles. Heck, most of Lively's role is her in chains! (And not in the good, kinky kind of way!)


"Savages" is, nevertheless, a huge step in the right direction for Stone and he does the best with what he has; the leads might not have been his choice. And the ending... well... uh...   -- GEOFF BURTON