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Released: 21st September 2012

Certificate: 15

Directed By: Oliver Stone

Starring: Taylor Kitsch, Benicio Del Toro, Blake Lively

Reviewed By: Rob Leetham

Ummmmm – this is a tricky one. The basic premise is that O (Blake Lively) is hanging with two guys Chon (Taylor Kitsch) and Ben (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) who happen to grow and sell the best weed in the world. They have created a comfy empire with riches galore and enjoy a three way relationship where O has two boyfriends and they ‘share’ her between themselves, and all is lovely, boho and chic and everyone is cool and comfortable with the way things are. Happiness it seems, is selling and smoking the green with the occasional threesome thrown in.

What could possibly go wrong with that set up? Mexicans.

Elena (Salma Hayek) runs a drug cartel who have lost a lot of money. The cartel is brutal and feared and has a very interestingly moustached right hand man not averse to removing right hands or heads should he feel like it in the shape of Lado (Benicio Del Toro). They have decided that they want a slice of the American Pie and make Ben & Chon an offer they can’t refuse. Ben & Chon refuse and as you can imagine the Mexican Cartel are not amused. Thereafter ensues violent mayhem and a game of cat and mouse that is very convoluted morally and exceptionally hit and miss.

John Travolta pops up as a corrupt DEA in the pocket of Cheech…sorry Ben and Chon and appears to be dare I say phoning this one in a little.

I think the problem is that as an audience it’s really hard to care about the characters and therefore investing in the 2 plus hours is the tricky bit I mentioned above. O (short for Ophelia, explained in one of several throw away VOs from O) comes across as a self obsessed, narcissistic lazy valley girl with very few redeeming qualities. Ben is a paradox of a character, peddling drugs in one hand but installing water pumps in Africa with the other. A sort of metaphor for the light & cheery side of recreational drug dealing, he should have a loyalty card scheme in place that offers rewards for each kilo purchased. Chon is an ex soldier who has brought some seeds from Afghanistan back with him to profit from, and is similar to the Mexican cartel in the way that recreational violence is a hobby. One of the cringiest/unintentionally funniest lines of dialogue comes from one of O’s VO’s when she states deadpan “Ben gives me orgasms, Chon gives me Wargasms.”

Elena & Lado come across a little panto villain were it not for the brutal violence they inflict on anyone that stands in their way but having said that there is a strong sense of the maternal about Elena not only reserved for her own children that suggests she still has a heart in there, she’s just taking care of business if you like and has been moulded into the monster she has become. She is the only character that we get to know the story wise, others I presume are just bad ‘uns who like drugs. At least that’s all the exposition time they’re granted.

As mentioned I think for all the flash cinematography and shock factor violence I was left feeling a little empty from the whole experience. It seems that Oliver Stone is very pro legalisation and it even crops up in dialogue at one stage that it’s only a matter of time before it happens. So is the message that legalising drugs will curtail hostile takeovers? I think not. As a film it’s well made and has a great cast. As a drama it’s a midnight tv movie.

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