Oliver Stone is a name that’s recognizable in film but when I look back at the films I’ve seen by Stone, I’m not incredibly blown away. I’m going to add this movie to the list of films that I’ve enjoyed but will likely never watch again. There were some things I really enjoyed and was really enthralled by, but there were also things that kept me at arm’s distance.
The gist. Taylor Kitsch (John Carter, Battleship, Friday Night Lights) and Aaron Johnson (the star of Kick-Ass, which didn’t dawn on me until I looked at IMDb) star as two best friends who create and distribute the most potent marijuana in California. They both are in love with O (short for “Ophelia”) played by Blake Lively. They cross paths with a drug cartel run by Salma Hayak and her right-hand man played by Benicio Del Toro. Well, things get out of hand as the drug cartel kidnaps O and the two best friends resort to drastic measures to get her back.
Stone’s style of filmmaking is engaging for sure and interesting shots make even the most mundane scenes intriguing. Both Kitsch and Johnson play their roles as well as could be expected. I was more impressed with Johnson, as his character had an arc as opposed to the trigger happy “Chon” played by Kitsch. His name is Chon? I swore it was Sean or maybe John but thanks again to IMDb (and a hint by Alex Rowe from Computer Chips Online Magazine), it was proven that it’s indeed “Chon.” Don’t name your child Chon. Please.
I also was incredibly creeped out by Benicio Del Toro, which means he did a good job I guess. Salma Hayak was okay. I do appreciate the bigger issues that the movie tried to bring up, in regards to why people do bad things but it didn’t feel like it paid off. On a big scale, the movie should have worked.
What didn’t work?
Something was off. The whole movie builds up to a point where these two men have to do whatever it takes to get their woman back, but I was expecting these drastic actions to be more involved. This isn’t much of a spoiler, but the ending lacked the punch that I was looking forward to. Two guys should’ve gone off the rails and saved the girl. Instead, things don’t escalate to the point that I was expecting. This movie went for a more “cerebral” route as opposed to the action-packed climax that I was personally looking forward to. I felt a little robbed. There’s also a twist at the end that really cheats you, though some will likely appreciate the twist. It kind of reminds me of the Gyllenhall/Maguire flick Brothers, where you’re waiting for the explosion to happen and you don’t ever really get the payoff you wanted.
Also, let’s talk about Blake Lively. What is she doing in movies still? Stop hiring her. She was completely uncharismatic and it was unbelievable that two men would be head over heels for her. There were a few self-referential moments where she would say something stupid and another character would say “Why do Americans talk like that?” but most of these moments went uncontested and it turned her character into an archtypal “Orange County” blonde. I didn’t mind when she was kidnapped.
It was good for a few moments, usually as Aaron Johnson’s Ben struggled to transform from “peace-loving do-gooder” into “do whatever it takes” killer. Lively and Kitsch were both relatively 2-dimensional though the writing may be the cause. Lively was especially hard to watch. The baddies of the film did a great job at being despicable but we never get the payoff that we want and you’ll likely leave the movie unsatisfied.