While the title of Oliver Stone's latest picture suggests a brutal tale of drug dealers and violence (which is to a large extent the case), the cartel around which the story centres is far from your average marijuana-growing outfit. Ben (Aaron Taylor-Johnson), Chon (Taylor Kitsch) and O (Blake Lively) have a huge weed business in Laguna Beach California where they live in a luxury villa by the ocean which was pad for purely from the profits of their booming enterprise. But unlike other similar setups, theirs is comparatively docile with practically no violence and huge amounts of their revenue being put into philanthropic projects in Africa. Also dissimilarly to other cannabis-growing groups, the three live in absolute harmony with the girl not only being treated well but actually loved by both men and with a reciprocal feeling on her part. Things could not be better.
One day, however, a huge Mexican cartel headed by the ruthless Elena (Salma Hayek) decides they want in on the trio's expertise and clients and so makes them a deal which they expect to be accepted. After discussing the proposition with Elena's representative Alex (Demián Bichir), they decide that they will give the cartel what they want (on the advice of bent cop Dennis, played by John Travolta) but they personally want no part in it. They decide to disappear for the agreed length of the contract with Elena's mob (three years) using money laundered by their associate Spin (Emile Hirsch). Whilst celebrating their decision together, the three are being spied on by another of Elena's henchmen, Lado (Benicio Del Toro). He informs his boss of the trio's plan. Feeling she needs the Ben and Chon for their knowledge, she decides to halt their escape by taking what is most precious to them: O.
From here on in the two rivals engage in a serious game of revenge and one-upmanship which forces Ben and Chon into unfamiliar violent territory but for which they are fully prepared with back up from Chon's ex-SEAL comrades. With a series of drug exchanges, shoot outs and hostage-takings as well as several tales of deceit on the Mexican side, the tale is a gripping one and there is something quite beautiful about it despite the drugs and violence.
Without giving too much away, the ending is also particularly well worked and adds to the blissful ideal of the picture as well as bringing the circle to a calming close. The all-star cast does not disappoint with standout performances from Del Toro and Lively. Even if you are not one to typically go and see a film of this genre, if there was one that could change your habits, this would be it.
Date : 21/09/2012
Average price: £10.00