If Oliver Stone ejaculated repeatedly into a bucket filled with tequila, LSD and film stock and left it out in the desert for a week, the resultant slurry would likely resemble Savages, a purported return to form that's less a functioning film than a feature-length "look what I can do!" show reel. Filled with fights, flesh and really pretty people masticating really pretty scenery, it's like a car prepped for family vacation, packed with lots and lots of shit — one Stone drives around in circles for two-plus hours after he insists on getting reacquainted.
The source material, a novel by Cali-noir writer Don Winslow, is pulpy gold for the director, idle since 2010's sour Wall Street sequel. That's mainly due to its triumvirate of virile stars: hippie do-gooder Ben (Aaron Taylor-Johnson), perma-PTSD combat vet Chon (Taylor Kitsch) and their shared live-in lover O (Blake Lively). The threesome runs a successful high-end weed operation in Laguna Beach, so profitable that foxy Mexicana cartel kingpinette Elena (Salma Hayek) wants to buy into the business to up the output of her growers. Ben and Chon decline and plan on skipping the country, but not before Elena's pompadoured henchman Lado (Benecio Del Toro) nabs O, who's armed only with the skills of shopping, screwing and wispy voiceover, to force the boys to reconsider.
Though the script refers to the vague definitional bounds of the title — and, like, life itself, man! — in what seems like a thousand obtuse philosophical swaths (seriously, count the times they say "savages"), no honest thread connects O's flighty, directionless narration and Stone's signature hyper-violence, unfurled via Ben and Chon tearing apart humans in the name of polyamorous love. There is babbling in Column A and blowing up in Column B, and max-volume turns by Hayek and John Travolta as a dirty DEA agent barely add levity. Stone's rawest instincts are still sharp but he's mistaken if he thinks this is what we want from him.