History is made at
Speaking of the latter ... Salma Hayek, you guys! You could tell from the trailer that she would be eating up all the scenery in sight, but I had no idea she'd be doing so in so many interesting ways. She screams, she preens (in some of the most inspired costume-based sight gags I've seen in a while), she rolls her eyes at empty-headed Americans while going to town on some fine dining. (SalmaEats.tumblr.com. Make it happen, someone.) She's having an absolute ball on screen, and I honestly don't know why she's not getting the exact same kind of "Salma being Salma" kudos that Matthew McConaughey is reaping for Magic Mike.
As for the Blake Lively Situation, which appears to be a sticking point for critics of the movie, I thought she did exactly what you hire Blake Lively to do: play a gorgeous, naïve, kind of ridiculous in her ignorance of her own privilege girl who gets it juuust enough to make a move or two on her own behalf. This isn't great acting, but of all of the characters in the movie, she's the one who has to deliver the most ridiculous dialogue. All that voice-over -- that thick, gauzy voice-over about the best-laid plans of mice and polyamorous men -- and she gives it pretty much the right amount of dreamy self-seriousness. I'm not sure I'll be able to hear the word "wargasms" again without thinking of her.
The whole cast is pretty much up to the job. Benicio Del Toro has decided to embrace his creepy weirdness in a way he hasn't since, what, The Usual Suspects? And you know who I NEVER expected to enjoy in a movie again? John Travolta. You know who's kind of great in this? John Travolta! Okay, "great" is a relative term. But he clears some seriously lowered expectations by a LOT, sputtering the righteous indignation of an American law enforcement officer grown fat on kickbacks. If there's one area of the movie I'm willing to give Oliver Stone credit for deeper meaning -- and ONE only -- it's in this character. That really is the only deeper meaning happening here. Which is fine! I wanted junk and I got very entertaining junk. But if I see Stone on TV talking about how this movie is a shot across the bow of U.S. drug-enforcement policy or something like that, I'm gonna start frowning like a motherfucker.
1) a smartie (he's a botanist!)
2) growing the best weed in, like, all of history, including the Inca and shit
3) a philanthropist, to the plays-soccer-with-African-kids degree
4) not all that judgy about how his best friend enjoys inflicting bodily harm on people
5) a sensitive yet enthusiastic lover
6) the kind of guy who gets REALLY messed up -- internally, feelings-wise -- when he gets called upon to shoot and (later) torture some bad guys to death, which shows he has a conscience.
And he's played by Aaron Johnson, who -- and where was THIS on all the posters? -- gets nakeder in this movie than he EVER HAS BEFORE. (Once again, I have to recognize one of my favorite emerging trends in movies, where the ingénue declines to show her breasts on film but her male costars are shaking it like the rent is due. Summer of Dudesploitation 2.0!)
Oh, one last thing: Emile Hirsch is in this movie? Rather briefly and certainly not worthy of being on the marketing (so good thing he wasn't), but I was struck by the fact that 3-4 years ago, Hirsch would have absolutely played the Aaron Johnson role. (The Taylor Kitsch role would have been played by Stop-Loss-era Channing Tatum or, like, Dane Cook.) And now he's reduced to playing Tech Support and wearing demeaning bicyclist clothes all movie. Shame.