- Released Internationally on 06/07/12
- Released in Malta by KRS on 31/10/12
Preview (first published 01/10/12 in VIDA Magazine)
Director Oliver Stone is no stranger to extreme violence and drugs, but he seems to have toned things down since 1994’s Natural Born Killers, with his focus shifting towards violence of the political, financial and sporting kind. But he now returns to the seedy and dangerous world of drug cartels for this sprawling crime drama. Focusing on two best friends who share both a booming marijuana business and a girlfriend, the tragedy shows how the delicate balance that drug dealer’s lives are built on can collapse spectacularly (or so we’re told). The impressive cast includes John Travolta, Benicio del Toro (Traffic), Salma Hayek (Frida), Aaron Taylor-Johnson (Kick Ass), Taylor Kitsch (John Carter), Blake Lively (The Town) and Emile Hirsch (Into the Wild).
As expected, this one is not for the faint-hearted. Even before the opening credits roll, we’re given a hint of the level of violence we are to expect. Whether those involved in drug cartels actually go to these extremes to find new ways of murdering and torturing their enemies is a point for the police, but Stone tries to show how much is at stake by way of justification. The inevitability of a messy death for anyone who steps out of line helps to add some tension to the proceedings, but ultimately it’s hard to find a character to sympathise with when everyone is super rich and life isn’t worth too much to them. The way the tale unfolds, it seems evident that we are meant to sympathise with ‘O’, or Ophelia, the shared girlfriend and weak point of the two self-made weed kings. But even she lacks any real charm, despite looking stunning. When she tries to explain her plans in life, Salma Hayek’s character cuts her nonsense short with a well-placed ‘do you Americans all talk like that?”
Hayek is initially convincing as the feared drug lord, but her hard exterior crumbles a bit too quickly when the going gets tough. The cast all do quite a good job, with interesting characters that help make the surprisingly linear plot very easy to follow. Which all leads nicely to the predictable showdown in the desert, which much like every step of the dealings, can go either way. It seems that when working with savages things can very quickly descend into chaos, but Stone tries to show us that it’s not always clear who the real savages are.
In the end
Not exactly a drug-war classic, but the beach location and the young protagonists offer an interesting new angle. It’s all reasonably entertaining, if you’ve got the stomach for it.