In California, the former Navy SEAL Chon and his best friend, the peaceful botanist Ben, are successful entrepreneurs producing and dealing high-quality weed. Chon brought seeds from Afghanistan and Ben used his knowledge to develop the best marijuana in the country. Chon and Ben share the pothead lover Ophelia and she loves both of them since they complete each other - Chon is a powerful and strong lover and Ben is a sensible and loving lover. Their comfortable life changes when the Mexican Baja Cartel demands a partnership in their business. Chon and Ben refuse the deal and the leader of the cartel Elena sends her right-arm in America, Lado, to abduct Ophelia to press the American drug dealers. Chon and Ben ask the support of the dirty DEA Agent Dennis and get inside information to begin a secret war against the Baja Cartel to release Ophelia. Written by
Claudio Carvalho, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
This is Oliver Stone's first film in nearly 17 years to be photographed with Panavision anamorphic lenses. After Nixon (1995), his 2.35:1 films were cropped to that ratio via shooting in Super 35. He was convinced to return to anamorphic by cinematographer Dan Mindel, who has shot all of his features except Domino (2005) in the format. Mindel told Stone during their first meeting that if the plan was to shoot in Super 35 or digitally, then he wasn't the right man for the job. See more »
The headrests in Chon and Ben's Jeep disappear are reappear several times depending on the scene. They are missing when Dennis gets in to talk with them. Later in the desert ambush scene, they have been replaced. See more »
Just because I'm telling you this story doesn't mean I'm alive at the end of it. This could all be pre-recorded and I could be talking to you from the bottom of the ocean. Yeah, it's that kind of a story. Because things just got so out of control.
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This was not a great movie. It could have been a great movie, but it was let down in two major ways.
First off, two of the three lead characters are awful. Blake Lively makes for good eye candy, but she just isn't a good actress. She's not bad in smaller supporting roles (like her part in The Town), but she simply cannot carry a lead. Unfortunately the entire film basically revolves around her (and she narrates), so her shortcomings are brought front and center. Every time her voice-over came on, I cringed. It really was not a good choice.
Taylor Kitsch is no better. Again... good eye candy, poor acting. Very poor acting. He just has no soul, and brings absolutely nothing to his character whatsoever. He should be in a brainless Fast & Furious movie playing opposite Vin Diesel, not an Oliver Stone drama.
The second major failure of this film is even more serious, and that is the story structure. We are never really given the opportunity to understand why the three lead characters (Chon, Ben and Ophelia) have such strong feelings for each other. We're told that they do, but never given any real reason to believe it. This is extremely important, because literally the entire premise of the film hangs on their relationship. If you're going to build a dramatic story around an unorthodox three- way relationship, you had better explain in more than one quick scene exactly how this relationship happened, otherwise the audience won't know why they should care about the characters. Especially when the actors portraying these characters aren't very good to begin with.
I know that I kept asking myself why these two guys share a girl, how they have absolutely zero jealousy, why they never once thought of double-crossing each other, and why either of them care so deeply for her -- to the point of being willing to risk their lives and commit horrible atrocities to save her. Where did all this love and loyalty come from? It was never adequately explained, and the entire movie suffers tremendously for it.
On a slightly more positive note, the veteran actors did a fine job. Benicio Del Toro was wonderful as a psychotic cartel underboss, John Travolta chewed the scenery to bits, and Salma Hayek was entirely believable in her role as well. Unfortunately, their competence only served to underscore the incompetence of the younger leads. It's telling that the best scene in the entire film was between Del Toro and Travolta, with none of the three lead actors anywhere to be found, and hinted at the promise this movie squandered.
A lot of reviews took issue with the violence portrayed in the film, but I didn't have a problem with that. You really can't make a movie about Mexican drug cartels without violence, so I didn't feel it was gratuitous. Unfortunately, however, it also didn't make the movie any more believable from a plot perspective.
Overall, I just don't think this was a very good film. I don't think that Stone felt entirely comfortable with what he was doing here, trying at times to be Tarantino but failing miserably. And likewise, I think that if this film had been in the hands of Tarantino or Robert Rodriguez, it likely would have come out much better, perhaps even great.
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