Oliver Stone may have finally found a subject matter whose capacity for depravity may exceed his most outlandish conspiracy theory with the Mexican drug cartel at the center of Don Winslow‘s bestselling novel, Savages. The fat cats of Wall Street look like pussycats compared to the thugs in Winslow’s policier about a couple of Newport Beach drug pushers (Taylor Kitsch and Aaron Johnson) consigned to work for a south-of-the-border cartel that has kidnapped the young woman (Blake Lively) they both love. The gang’s kingpin will be played by none other than Salma Hayek, who may have finally found a role worthy of her mui fuerte screen presence.
Stone continues to add to what’s shaping up to be the platonic ideal of a cast for this particular project. Today he enlisted the significant talents of Mexican actor Demian Bichir, best known for playing Fidel Castro in Soderberg’s “Che” and for stealing scenes from Mary Louise Parker in “Weeds.” Bichir is also riding high on an undercurrent of Oscar buzz for his performance in Chris Weitz’s upcoming illegal immigrant drama, “A Better Life.”
And in a case of what might be called film bites dog, the process of working with Stone and screenwriter Shane Salerno (“Armageddon”) has already inspired Winslow to begin work on a prequel to Savages, which focuses on the relationships between the gringos before things truly go south — of the border and otherwise. The book is due for a synergistic release alongside the film sometime next year. If all goes according to plan, it should be poised to provide sequel fodder if one or both connects with consumers.
But let’s not get ahead of ourselves just yet. This is, after all, an Oliver Stone production, and it’s been a long time since his ambitions didn’t overreach his ability to deliver dynamic original filmmaking. We are, however, encouraged by Salerno’s recent resume, which includes a documentary he directed on J.D. Salinger for which he interviewed the likes of Tom Wolfe, Gore Vidal, and E.L. Doctorow. We’re guessing his fiction work will reflect a similar literary bent. Or at least here’s hoping. Either way, we’re thrilled by the prospect of seeing serious filmmakers do justice to Don Winslow’s work on the big screen. And no, 2007′s Paul Walker vehicle, “The Death and Life of Bobby Z,” doesn’t count.