The Video Vacuum (thevideovacuum) wrote,
The Video Vacuum

SALVADOR (1986) ****

Wall Street 2 is coming out this week so to honor the long awaited sequel; I thought I’d finally go through my Oliver Stone DVD box set I bought ages ago and finally watch them all in sequential order.  Stone has always been one of my favorite directors, and even though you may not agree with his politics, you’ve got to admit, the man knows how to make some fucking awesome movies.


And the first film in the box set, Salvador is just one of those fucking awesome movies.  Very rarely do you get a movie that’s alternately horrifying and hilarious.  Yet Stone is somehow able to walk a tightrope between the yuks and yucks and the result is one of the best movies he ever made.


Salvador is also the start of a major theme in Stone’s work.  It follows the exploits of a real life character throughout a difficult real world crisis.  This would later turn up on Born on the Fourth of July, JFK, Heaven and Earth, and other flicks, but this is where it happened first.


The story follows photojournalist Richard Boyle (James Woods) as he and his buddy Dr. Rock (Jim Belushi) go down to Salvador to get take some pictures and make some quick cash.  His wife has left him, he’s been evicted from his apartment, and his reputation has been tarnished from years of excessive boozing and whoring.  So he figures what does he have to lose?  Might as well go down to Salvador and snap some pics.  Of course, he’s got to put up with the bloodthirsty dictator and his death squads that randomly go around raping nuns and killing anyone they think is a threat.  Naturally, a loud-mouthed Americano with a camera isn’t the most welcomed of guests in Salvador.


These are some great fucking characters we’ve got here.  The scenes with Boyle and Dr. Rock driving in the convertible doing drugs and drinking reminded me of Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas.  And these dudes are fucking funny.  They bang broads, get the clap, spike reporters’ drinks with acid, and do a whole bunch of crazy shit.  In short, these are some guys I’d like to party with.


Boyle in particular is great.  He has a family on each border and probably fucked every piece of ass in between.  Plus, he wears a thoroughly awesome Schlitz T-shirt that I wish I had.  In all seriousness though, he is a real Samurai motherfucker, except instead hiring out his sword, he hires out his camera.  Like any good samurai, he always tries to do the right thing but is so hard on himself that he doesn’t even realize that he has already done the right thing.  Take for instance the scene where he hands over some photos of a mass grave to a mission looking for missing people.  Sure, he only handed the photos over to get in good with the proprietor so he’d set him up with one of his guerilla contacts, but there’s no denying that he did a good deed that helped a lot of people.


And that’s what makes him such a wonderful character.  Sure, he’s a boozed up, pill popping maniac, yet he truly believes that his photos can make a difference.  And through the fog of alcohol and drugs, he braves several life-threatening situations and manages to come out on top.  Just like a fucking samurai.


And no one can play this sort of out of control self-loathing maniac like James Fucking Woods.  While I think personally that my favorite Woods performance was in Videodrome, I really have to say he’s never been better.  He’s really good at delivering his chest-thumping political speeches, and because it’s James Woods, it never seems self-righteous or preachy.  And I liked how he had a glove compartment full of fake Rolexes in case he has to buy somebody off.  He also has a great scene where he goes into a confessional.  Man that was one for the books.


I don’t think anyone has given Jim Belushi enough credit as a serious actor.  He’s pretty terrific here and balances his character’s comic moments with the dramatics perfectly.  My favorite moment came in the middle of a fight where he tried to smash a beer bottle and use it as a weapon but couldn’t get it to break.


Salvador is really funny but things turn deadly serious really fucking fast.  First they’re boozing it up, next they’re face down on the hood of their car with submachine guns pointed at their necks.  Stone is amazing at turning the tone of the movie on a dime and always keeps you on the edge of your seat.  And you have to give him a lot of credit for delivering one heck of a ballsy non-Hollywood ending too.


In short, we’re talking about an underappreciated gem that definitely needs another look-see.  Any Stone or Woods fan worth their salt needs to check this baby out.  You’ll be glad you did.

Tags: drama, oliver stone, s
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