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Blast from the Past Movie Review – “Salvador” (1986)

June 17, 2012

I’m quite surprised that I’ve never seen nor heard of this film. I’ve seen Oliver Stone’s earlier films when he tapped into his horror side; “Seizure” “The Hand”, both films may I add are not good at all, but that’s for another review. Yet, somehow I seem to miss out on “Salvador”. When I found out it was on instant Netflix (by the way it’s available their till June 30th, 2012), I instantly hit the ‘add to que’ button. Adele Zin was my lucky winner for the que number draw this week, which lucky enough led me back to “Salvador”.

Oliver Stone as a filmmaker has his ups and downs, don’t get me wrong, he’s ambitious, but he’s had a tendency to be a little too ambitious. Yet, when he’s making something very personal, and close to home, like “Platoon”, he hits it right out of the park. “Salvador” came before “Platoon”, and like “Platoon” it’s a very personal story to tell. It’s based on the true story of Stone’s photojournalist pal Richard Boyle, who lends a hand in co-scripting the movie. The two friends tell a story about Rick’s dangerous/wild endeavors in the country of El Salvador. In the early 80’s, which the film is set in, El Salvador was at the peak of war; men, woman, and children are slaughtered by the thousands of a political game.

Rick is portrayed by James Woods, that right there by itself should be your first clue to watch this freakin’ film, Woods nails this role! He IS this role, he was so into this role that it led him his first Oscar nomination for Best Actor. Now, I’m not sure who won exactly that year, nor do I know who the other nominees were, but after watching this movie, I feel Woods deserved the win. His performances can be smart, cool, and cheeky at times, then he can turn it all around and make it gut-wrenching to watch, yet he finds a way to bring in some levity to such a morbid scene. James Belushi co-stars as Boyle’s buddy Doctor Rock’s, this here is pretty much the obvious intent that the movie is coming off as a gonzo-journalist/Hunter S. Thompson film. The influences of Thompson’s work are apparent, especially for me, being that I’m a fan of Hunter’s.

For me, this was like “Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas” meets “Platoon”. The war scenes are well choreographed and the action can be all too real, the realism never breaks. The other times the movie takes it’s gonzo approach, Boyle does everything in his lying weasel nature to survive, and not just the harsh war zones, but to survive the painful freelance work. He does everything he can, and say anything he can to get a job, while at the same time enjoying partying like an animal, drink booze, smoke pot, and screw woman every which way. It’s a trip of a film to watch, it’s so NOT Oliver Stone, and at the same time it’s the first movie that really defines the type of filmmaker he was destined to become.

Do yourself a favor, if your curious at all about Oliver Stone’s ‘early works’, skip his first two horror films, and begin where it should’ve began, watch “Salvador”. You’ll laugh, you’ll cry, and you’ll be caught in a trance of early genius. I really really liked this movie. If I had to complain about one thing, it would have to be the editing work, it’s not the best piece of editing in the world; choppy, bad dissolves, ADR craps up every now and then, it’s not good, but it could’ve been a hell of a lot worse. And for all the production problems this film faced, financially, the handling of the actors, and so on, it’s quite the impressive independent film.


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