Follow TV Tropes


Film / Savages

Go To
Savages is a 2012 crime-thriller movie directed by Oliver Stone from the 2010 novel of the same name by Don Winslow, starring Taylor Kitsch, Aaron Johnson, Blake Lively (who also narrates the movie), Joaquín Cosío, Salma Hayek, Benicio del Toro, Emile Hirsch and John Travolta.

Ben (Johnson) and Chon (Kitsch) are partners in marijuana dealing and share everything - including O (Lively), short for Ophelia. A big-time Mexican drug cartel led by Elena (Hayek) and Lado (Del Toro) kidnap her... big mistake.

Tropes associated with this movie:

  • Actual Pacifist: Ben until he has to kill in order to keep up the Masquerade... and O is Forced to Watch.
  • Adaptational Villainy: While Lado is a scumbag in both book and movie, in the movie he is far worse. While he is a murderer in the novel, in the movie he is more sadistic as he rapes O and kills Estaben for a petty reason.
  • Always Save the Girl: Ben and Chon put their quest to save O above everything else.
  • An Offer You Can't Refuse: Elena has Ophelia kidnapped to ensure that Ben and Chon comply with the terms of the deal.
  • Antagonistic Offspring: Both of Elena's surviving children have issues with her; her son because Elena cut him out of the cartel to protect him, and her daughter Magda who's ashamed of her mother for being a ruthless criminal.
  • Bigot with a Badge: O's bodyguard Hayes, who is black, is pulled over and seems to think that it's because of his race; however, the "cop" is actually a cartel hitman targeting him to kidnap O.
    "Cop": Do you know why I pulled you over?
    Hayes: [sarcastically] Let me guess. [gets shot in the head]
  • Bittersweet Ending: None of the main characters die....Ben, Chon and O are together hiding in paradise, but emotionally scarred. Elena is arrested, but a new cartel takes over in her place, and Lado gets away with everything, becoming the new Dragon in the new cartel.
  • Black-and-Gray Morality: Ben is generally pretty laid back and tries to avoid violence for the most part, Chon doesn't hesitate to use violence if he feels it's necessary, Elena is a ruthless drug queen, but she only became that way because she inherited her husband's business after he was killed (along with two of her sons), and she does care about her remaining family and even seems to sympathize with O. Dennis plays with both sides and sticks with whoever pays him the most, mostly to pay for his dying wife's chemotherapy.
  • Black Comedy:
    • When Ben and Chon first discover O is kidnapped, they see an animation of her decapitated head with X's over her eyes and her tongue sticking out as her head bounces around with pinball machine sound effects.
    • The entirety of the actual ending.
  • Black Dude Dies First: Hayes, The only African-American member of Chon's group of mercenary friends is killed during O's kidnapping.
  • Blackmail: Ben and Chon coerce Dennis into giving them the location of Elena's daughter by threatening to expose their connection to him; it would result in all of them going to jail, but at that point he has much more to lose.
  • Blood Knight: Chon is a former military man whom O describes in her narration as Ben's muscle when it comes to drug deals. He has the highest body count in the movie out of all the heroic characters.
  • The Cartel: The plot is driven by Elena's drug cartel's efforts to expand operations in the US by taking over Ben and Chon's weed business.
  • Cassandra Truth: When the cartel's money shipment gets robbed only Lado believes that Ben and Chon were behind it, with everyone else assuming the heist was carried out by a rival cartel. Lado is The Mole for the rival cartel, and knows that if they had stolen the money he would have known about it.
  • Chekhov's Gunman: Magda first appears having a seemingly inconsequential phone conversation with her mother. She becomes an essential piece to the guys' rescuing of O.
  • Creator Cameo: Oliver Stone has a very...quirky one, in the animation sequence presumed to be a part of O's e-mail to her mother.
  • Damsel in Distress: O; she is kidnapped by the cartel to get Ben and Chon to cooperate in handing over their weed business.
  • Death by Adaptation: Esteban gets a type II; in the novel, Lado kills him when he's caught helping O escape, whereas in the film, Lado just does it because he's "too soft".
  • Dirty Cop: Dennis is a DEA agent who takes payments from Ben and Chon in exchange for keeping their organization free from law enforcement scrutiny.
  • Dragon with an Agenda: Lado. He ultimately betrays Elena and signs up as the new Dragon for her rival drug lord, El Azul.
  • Elites Are More Glamorous: Of course Chon and his friends are Navy SEALs.
  • Even Evil Has Loved Ones: For all her faults Elena cares more about her daughter than anyone or anything else.
  • Everybody Lives: All the main characters anyway.
  • Evil Parents Want Good Kids: Elena has this to say about her daughter, Magda: "She's ashamed of me and I'm proud of her for it."
  • Eye Scream: We don't see the act take place, but during his torture scene, we can see one of Alex's eyeballs hanging out of the socket.
  • Fanservice: Blake Lively and the two male leads show off some skin. Magda is featured in a sex scene. There's also a Fanservice Extra.
    • Chon and O having rough sex in the film's opening.
    • O and Ben having sex in the hot tub followed by them taking it to the bedroom.
    • The three-way between Chon, O, and Ben together after the club scene.
  • The Fashionista: When their accountant is getting the protagonists' finances in order to flee the country, he mentions having to add a clothing budget when he learns that O is coming as well. O is also kidnapped only because she insists on taking a final trip to the mall to stock up before leaving town.
  • Faux Affably Evil: Lado. He is incredibly charismatic and an excellent conversationalist, but he is also a murderous psychopath who unhesitantly guns down Esteban for being too sympathetic to their victims, including O.
  • First-Person Smartass: As the narrator O has elements of this.
  • Heterosexual Life-Partners: Chon and Ben. It's lampshaded when her kidnapper notes that they love each other more than O, since otherwise there's no way they would share her with each other.
  • He Who Fights Monsters: Chon has this in his backstory. Ben and Chon go to some pretty dark places during the film as well.
  • Hypocrite:
    • Dennis. Despite being a DEA agent, he accepts pot from Ben to help relieve his wife's symptoms as she's dying from cancer.
    • Lado, who commits murder, torture, rape, and is unfaithful to his wife, calls the protagonists "savages" for participating in a committed polyamorous relationship between consenting adults.
  • Imagine Spot: The first ending.
  • I Have Your Wife:
    • Kidnapping O takes care of both guys, conveniently enough.
    • Turned on Elena in the end when Ben and Chon kidnap her daughter.
  • In-Series Nickname: To Elena, Ben is "Mister Nothing Personal" and Chon is "Mister Eat Shit Caviar".
  • Insult Backfire: O spits in Lado's face, but he casually licks it up and then wipes his hand on her hair.
  • Ironic Echo: When Ben and Chon capture Magda and send a video to Elena, they message they give her mirrors the one she gave them when she kidnapped O.
  • Karma Houdini:
    • Lado gets off scot-free due to him being an informant for Dennis and setting up Elena to take the fall.
    • Dennis, the corrupt DEA agent, ends up being regarded as a hero at the end for bringing down Elena.
  • Kick The Son Of A Bitch: Ben and Chon frame one of Elena's top men for the loss of $3 million that they stole. He gets tortured and killed for that, but he was guilty of a whole lot of real crimes.
  • Lima Syndrome: Esteban shows a lot of sympathy toward O. Too much, as it turns out.
  • Lonely Rich Kid: Implied in O's backstory. Her mother is pretty neglectful and her father is out of the picture, and O started using weed at a young age to cope.
  • Mama Bear: Elena. She cut her son off from the business entirely to protect him, and she will do anything to make sure her daughter is safe.
  • Meaningful Name: Lado means "side," and he's the right-hand man of a drug kingpin. Additionally, "el otro lado" is Mexican slang for the United States, and Lado is in charge of cartel operations north of the border.
  • The Mole: Lado is a double mole; as a high ranking member of Elena's organization, he is giving information both to her enemy El Azul and to the DEA.
  • Morality Pet: Elena may be a ruthless drug baroness, but she cares deeply about her estranged daughter Magda, to the point that when Ben and Chon kidnap Magda, she immediately agrees to hand over O without any hesitation.
  • Name Drop: Happens at least five times.
  • Nice Job Fixing It, Villain: Elena forces Ben and Chon to participate in the torture and murder of a cartel member to further establish her control over them. However, the tortured man's ranting causes Ben to realize that Elena's daughter Magda, who they believed dead, is actually alive, setting up their plot to kidnap Magda to exchange for O.
  • No Good Deed Goes Unpunished: Lado kills Esteban for being too sensitive.
  • Noble Demon: For all the brutality of the cartel it's obvious Elena would rather get things done without bloodshed when possible, and actually tries to make things as good as possible for O. She also loves and cares about her daughter so much she's willing to give up O and drop the entire arrangement to get her back, even though that's effectively forfeiting $13 million.
  • One-Letter Name: Her real name may be Ophelia, but she prefers to shorten it to O.
  • Posthumous Narration: Teased in the opening narration, in which O says, "Just because I'm telling you this story doesn't mean I'm alive at the end of it." Ultimately averted, since her death is an Imagine Spot. In the "real" ending, she survives.
  • Polyamory: Canon; O is with both Chon and Ben.
  • Private Military Contractors: Quite a few of Chon's battle buddies have become mercenaries after coming home. They apparently have no qualms performing drug hits.
  • Protagonist-Centered Morality: Invoked by Chon, when Ben is traumatized after they kill several cartel members to steal their cash shipment.
    "Tell me Ben, which life would you trade for O's? Which one?"
  • Red Herring: The entire character of Esteban, who seems to emerge as O's only friend during her kidnapping. Lado kills him almost at random for being too soft.
  • Red Oni, Blue Oni: Chon serves as the Red Oni as an openly aggressive, violent Iraq war veteran while Ben, a philanthropic Buddhist botanist, serves as the Blue Oni.
  • Robbing the Mob Bank: Not a literal bank, but Ben and Chon hit a cartel cash shipment to get the money to pay O's ransom.
  • Satellite Love Interest: O could be seen as one, as she is solely defined by being Chon and Ben's girlfriend, liking shopping, and being accustomed to and demanding better food and other accommodations from her captors.
  • Shout-Out:
    • Ophelia is not happy that her name is a reference to a woman who went insane and killed herself over a man. She's also not happy with John Everett Millais's painting of Ophelia being displayed to her by her kidnappers, featuring Ophelia's corpse.
    • Early on, O jokes with her two guys about how they're like Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid.
  • Sociopathic Hero: Chon is a ruthless, brutal man and if it wasn't for Ben he would probably be as bad as the Cartel members.
  • Soundtrack Dissonance: Invoked by the cartel, whose videos of people getting executed by chainsaw are accompanied by an upbeat, jaunty tune.
  • Spanner in the Works: Dennis. After O royally fakes out the audience, Dennis shows up from seemingly nowhere with the police before things really have the chance to escalate. If it weren't for Dennis' sudden intrusion, all of the other main characters would probably have been Killed Off for Real.
  • Spiteful Spit: O spits in Lado's face after seeing a video of Lado raping her. Lado's reaction is to lick up the spit.
  • Take a Third Option: When Ophelia is kidnapped, Ben and Chon originally only have one option — comply with the cartel's demands. They are able to negotiate a second option, to pay a ransom to get her back. When it becomes apparent that they won't be able to get the required amount, they take a third option and kidnap Elena's daughter to exchange her for O.
  • Title Drop: Happens thrice:
    • Our heroes refer to the drug cartel as "savages" because of their brutal tactics.
    • Lado refers to our heroes as "savages" for their polyamorous relationship.
    • Used more positively at the end of the movie when the protagonists have escaped the country; O refers to their new, simpler lifestyle as living like savages.
  • Trailers Always Lie: The trailer suggests that O narrates the movie from beyond the grave, a distinct possibility since in the novel just about everyone - good and bad guys alike - bites it. At first the film appears to be following the novel's ending with all the main characters dying... but then O says that's only what she wished happened, and the film rewinds to an earlier point, showing that all of the main characters aren't dead after all.
  • Upper-Class Twit: O is a relatively rare non-comedy version. She clearly comes from a rich family and while she met Ben and Chon through working for them by the time the film opens her occupation seems to be simply 'live in girlfriend'.
  • Villain Ball: Elena would have picked up a whole new distribution network, plus the recipe for some high-quality weed, if she'd just let Ben and Chon sell their business to her, rather than insist they come work for her. Instead, she sets in motion events which lead to her eventual downfall and the destruction of her entire business by being unnecessarily ruthless, vindictive, and violent.
  • Villain Protagonist: Chon and Ben. Whatever else they are, they're drug dealing criminals, and not above bribing a Federal officer and using violence to run their business.
  • Woobie, Destroyer of Worlds: Elena. She only got into the drug business in the first place because her husband was killed and she inherited his cartel connections, two of her sons were also killed, her third son is completely cut off from her, and her daughter Magda wants nothing to do with her, and at the end Lado betrays her and she ends up getting sentenced to 30 years in prison. O even admits that she feels bad for Elena in spite of everything she's done.