So we are updated! Gone are the old tales of drug cartels, and their brotherhoods, except the infighting was still there; the new is the young, smart, internet and finance-savvy, war-trained, comrades fragrant with bromance, and why-not adding mélage-à-trois to keep it straight? Our zeitgeist, so to speak? Also letters and VHS blackmailing were out as well, replacing them are fiber-optics real life video chats in 1080p HD! Marvelous.
What-else is being put in context with this film? perhaps it is the gender change of having a woman controlled cartel: Elena(Salma Hayek)!And why not, especially keeping up with our theme of updating:most US big corporations are now run by woman CEOs. She took over her beloved husband enterprise, and she even outed her son because of motherly love or perhaps, just her hunger for power? don’t know. This is the second woman with such power among last year’s blockbusters: Ma-Ma in Dredd 3D (2012) the first. Her lieutenant is Lado(Benicio Del Toro), still old-school and ambiguous, but submits to Elena.
A legit version of this film will be a big corporation trying to buyout a start-up, and the start-up does not want to lose controls, so normally, the negotiations break off and each party moves on… In the drug dealing business, No is never the right answer! The territory sales manager, Alex(Demián Bichir), wants the super-strain supply, and he is not taking any other reply from these young entrepreneurs, Chon(Taylor Kitsch) and Ben(Aaron Taylor-Johnson), other than a gracias! Back-up a bit, Ben is the smart genius who grows the stuff, and Chon is the muscle that protects the business. Ben is a spiritualist, and Chon is an angry Iraqi veteran with a lot of sniper buddies to help with their ops. ‘O’ (Ophelia)(Blake Lively), their shared f***buddy? I guess (see my footnote**).
So on the last day before they escape town or the surface of the earth, O decides to go shopping, and surely, she is kidnapped so that the boys will say “yes” to everything for her release. I thought she would have a key role in manipulating the situation and her captor, like using reverse-psychology on Elena, and rise above all and have the boys take over the cartel; no, she is just a hostage, who happens to be able to milk mommy Elena emotional torture of not having her kids around. Otherwise, I bet her head would have been chainsawed way before the boys out-smart and out-compete in Elena’s own game. Yes, the boys have toys and corrupted intel from Dennis(John Travolta), a federal drug buster, and use it to get a upper-hand of things, i.e., information is now more lethal than violence. The old school is that you flesh-slash till your captive spills his gut and tells the truth…
By now, I hope you know how this is going to pan out. Another clue, when O is shopping, Elena’s daughter, Magda(Sandra Echeverría) happens to be right beside her talking on her cell with mom. In other words, they are both in US, and mom is in Mexico. Wink! Jurisprudence!Elena needs to be prosecuted on US soil.
There are snitches, of course, and we as audience just have to figure who is the winner that takes it all! More importantly, who can you trust? your lawyer? think again.
P.S. It’s a Oliver Stone movie after all. Also, I think Dredd’s ma-ma is way more cold-hearted.
**O is nothing to the boys because she lives alone and they live happily ever after! So I have to be right with this one!