Monday, July 22, 2013

PCP on the Page & on DVD - Savages

When I first saw the trailers for Savages last year, I was excited to see the film. Oliver Stone directing a violent action movie? One that reminds me of Natural Born Killers? Sign me up! Then I found out it was based on a book, so I decided to read the book and watch the film, and do a comparison review for the first time here on the blog.

Savages - by Don Winslow.  2010.  320 pages.  My rating:  A.

Savages is a crime thriller from Don Winslow, an author I had never heard of before learning about the film being made on his work. Having read the book, I am glad that I read it. He has an extremely unique narrative style, changing up the formatting of the chapters between traditional narration and more interesting forms of writing. For example, characters imagine what the scene would be like as an email, or as a screenplay for Hollywood. It is not a narrative format that I have seen before, but it worked with the source material here, making the story come to life very vividly. The story is about a pair of pot growers and dealers in California, Ben & Chon, who have a Mexican cartel encroach on their turf to violent ends. Their girlfriend (it's complicated) is kidnapped to try and force them to sell out to the cartel, and the two retaliate in a series of raids to raise money to pay her ransom. Of course though, things are far more suspenseful and intense than I could hope to describe here. It is a crackling read, and at only 320 pages it is also a very fast read. I highly recommend this book to all.

Savages - 2012, rated R.  My rating: 6 out of 10.

Unlike the book, I cannot recommend the film as strongly. Despite having a stellar cast, including John Travolta, Oscar winner Benicio Del Toro, and one of my all time favorite actresses in Salma Hayek, the film just doesn't crackle with as much life and wit as the book. The film also has a lot less action, condensing multiple raids against the cartel into just one shown on the screen. The film also changes the ending from the book, probably to appease the Hollywood studio bankrolling the film. In fact, the book's original ending is filmed as an ending in the movie, and then the movie goes and pulls the "it was just a dream/vision" stunt and then shows us the Hollywood ending. I like the book's ending better, plus a lot of the best parts of the book just don't translate well to the silver screen.

Overall my recommendation is to skip the movie and just go read the book. You'll enjoy it a lot more. The movie isn't terrible, so if you will never read the book, then go watch the movie, you'll have fun. But if you read the book first, you will likely be disappointed by the film, as I was. I probably would have given the film a 7 instead of a 6 had I not read the book first.

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