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"Savages": What critics are saying

Blake Lively, left, and Benicio Del Toro in a scene from "Savages." Universal Pictures

(CBS News) Oliver Stone is back in theaters with "Savages," his adaptation of Don Winslow's bestseller about two Southern California marijuana dealers who run afoul of a Mexican drug cartel.

The film stars Taylor Kitsch and Aaron Johnson as the two dealers, Blake Lively as the lover they both share, Salma Hayek as the head of the cartel, Benicio Del Toro as one of her henchmen and John Travolta as a dirty DEA agent.

Reviews are in, and they're mixed. Some praised Stone's return to dark, violent filmmaking, while others critiqued the film's messy plot.

Here's what some of the critics had to say:

Pictures: Blake Lively
Pictures: John Travolta
Pictures: Benicio Del Toro

A.O. Scott of the New York Times wriote, "'Savages' is a daylight noir, a western, a stoner buddy movie and a love story, which is to say that it is a bit of a mess. But also a lot of fun, especially as its pulp elements rub up against some gritty geopolitical and economic themes."

"After a decade or so of suppressing his more lurid instincts, Oliver Stone is back in the bat-crap-crazy mode that made his Oscar-winning rap-sheet rep," Time's Richard Corliss said.

"To anyone who has missed the Oliver Stone of 'Natural Born Killers' and 'U Turn' while wading through the more recent and conventional likes of 'World Trade Center' and 'Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps,' 'Savages' represents at least a partial resurrection of the director's more hallucinatory, violent, sexual and, in a word, savage side," said the Hollywood Reporter's Todd McCarthy.

Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun Times wrote, "A return to form for Stone's dark side, 'Savages' generates ruthless energy and some, but not too much, humor."

"While the cinematography is consistently striking, the story ricochets among ironic humor, brutal violence and awkward stabs at genuine emotion," Claudia Puig of USA Today wrote. "While 'Savages' aims for provocative and dynamic, it comes off as predictable and strained."

The Los Angeles Times' Kenneth Turan said, "Much of the juiciest acting in 'Savages' comes from performers playing the story's more morally compromised characters. Salma Hayek does her best Wicked Witch of the West imitation as La Reina Elena, head of the Baja Cartel, and Benicio Del Toro all but oozes evil as Lado, her enforcer. Best of all is John Travolta, who gets it just right as Dennis, a genially corrupt Drug Enforcement Administration agent."

"Exciting as it is, 'Savages' does slide off the rails during the last half hour. The film goes from intense to indulgent, plausible to preposterous. But it's still a pleasure to see Stone settle into this dark groove," said Owen Gleiberman of Entertainment Weekly.

For all its moment-to-moment ferocity, the film becomes a kinder, gentler thing than its source material, defanged by [Blake Lively's character's] wispy, philosophizing narration and a twisty cop-out of an ending," Variety's Justin Chang said. "Yet if 'Savages' never quite captures the novel's diamond-hard sarcasm, it offers other satisfactions in its visceral immediacy, its overriding sense of danger and a clutch of performances that, whatever one's reservations about the characters, can't help but court the viewer's emotional investment."

Tell us: Do you plan to see "Savages"?

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