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Savages on Netflix: Is the movie based on a true story?

Promotional still from Savages.
Savages tells the story of two successful pot growers played by Aaron Taylor-Johnson and Taylor Kitsch. Pic credit: Universal Pictures

The 2012 action thriller Savages was added to the Netflix platform on March 16, and in roughly 24 hours, the movie has found its way onto the top trending list in the U.S.

Savages is sitting at number five. It is situated right underneath Netflix’s original documentary The Lost Pirate Kingdom and above the Netflix docuseries Last Chance U: Basketball

Savages is written and directed by filmmaker Oliver Stone, who then went on to work on the movie Snowden. Previously he wrote the gangster movie Scarface and he wrote and directed the crime drama Natural Born Killers. Savages is based on the New York Times bestselling crime novel by author Don Winslow.

What is Savages about?

Savages tells the story of two successful California-based pot growers, Ben Leonard (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) and John “Chon” McAllister (Taylor Kitsch), who refuse to partner with a dangerous Mexican drug cartel. Their refusal aggravates the cartel and the two men plan to go “on the run.” 

Keeping this information away from their shared girlfriend Ophelia Sage (Blake Lively) puts her in the face of danger as she finds herself being kidnapped and held for ransom by the cartel’s leader Elena Sanchez (Salma Hayek).

At the time of its premiere, Savages received mixed critical reception and flew under the radar during awards season. They were nominated for seven awards, two of which were MTV Movie Awards. The movie has an all-star cast, as seen with Taylor-Johnson, Kitsch, Lively and Hayek’s involvement.

Also starring in the movie is John Travolta, Ali Wong and Benicio del Toro (Guardians of the Galaxy, Star Wars: The Last Jedi).

Is the movie based on a true story? 

No, Savages is not based on a true story. While the story and characters are fictional, they are thought to be inspired by real-life people and events. However, a 2012 article by East Bay Express called the movie “implausible.”

Writer David Downs wrote, “Mexican drug-trafficking organizations currently smuggle commercial-grade pot from Mexico and sell it to gangs in the Midwest and on the East Coast. The cartels don’t bother with small, “legal” medical cannabis markets in Laguna Beach or any other California city.” 

Downs quotes other law enforcement workers and drug reform advocates who confirmed that drug cartels are not likely to find any gains within the medical marijuana community as their targeted audience and prices differ greatly.

Other publications have drawn similarities from the movie to the works of the real-life female gang leader Veronica Mireya Moreno Carreon and the most notable and violent Spanish drug cartels, the Tijuana Cartel and the Sinaloa Cartel.

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Savages is currently streaming on Netflix.

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