BEFORE: Taylor Kitsch AND Emile Hirsch carry over from "Lone Survivor", and I just could not have accidentally programmed a film that's more timely, this one's all about growing marijuana in southern California, a state that voted last week to make recreational marijuana use legal. Which is also great timing, because as a blue state, they're going to need it more than ever. Massachusetts also passed some kind of law de-criminalizing pot, which could make my holiday visits to my parents a lot more interesting. Stay tuned...
THE PLOT: Pot growers Ben and Chon face off against the Mexican drug cartel who kidnapped their shared girlfriend.
AFTER: Thematically, a lot carries over from last night's film, not just the presence of two actors. The two men who are selling pot and growing their business get their seeds from Afghanistan, and they also employ a bunch of snipers, who also served in the military over there. And it turns out that much like the Taliban, the Mexican cartels enjoy making videos where they cut people's heads off - only they use a chainsaw and not swords, but hey, to each his own.
These entrepreneurial hipsters are out to change the world, by growing pot with ten times the usual THC, and using the profits from the business to fund charity work in Africa and Asia, which seems awfully ambitious for a couple of stoners. Wait, I thought millennials didn't believe in hard work? They also share a girlfriend, which makes sense because finding two romantic partners would be twice the work, and because the kids today are supposed to be beyond jealousy and emotional attachments. This looks great on paper, but when you get into the logistics of a love triangle, it's bound to fall apart at some point.
The cartel fixes their romantic problem by kidnapping O, which is short for Ophelia (hey, thanks for explaining that every single time, which actually takes longer than just saying the full name in the first place...) and the boys will do just about anything to get her back - wait, what was that thing about no emotional attachments? Because they seem pretty attached to her. And I thought you guys said it was all about the charity work, and if that's true, why not just pack up your money, cut your losses and go find another girl to share? Or hey, maybe even two, but you do what feels right.
Ben and Chon (Seriously? Is that supposed to be some hipster version of "Sean" or something?) do try several ways to work with, around and then against the Mexical cartel. First they try to just hand over the super-strong pot business and walk away, but no, the cartel wants them to stay in place and follow orders. Then they try to accept the offer, but hack the computers (or something, it's all pretty vague) and when that fails, they try to liquidate everything and buy their girlfriend's freedom - only to do this, they steal money from the cartel itself, to pay off the cartel. I can't believe how stupid this plan is, to steal $5 million from a cartel convoy, a few days before making a payment in the same amount, to the same people. Nah, they'll never put two and two together on this one...
Then things get even more complicated, and there are plans within plans, and double-crosses and triple-crosses, and the DEA gets involved - this was probably the best part, when there were so many plans going on and nobody knew who was really on what side, or how the whole thing would shake down. But then this was ruined by a multiple-scenario ending, where we the audience basically get to choose whether we get the happy ending or not. What a cop-out, it seems like the director filmed two endings and couldn't decide between them, so he included both. No, you have to pick one!
Even worse, however, is the horrible narration, which is often used in place of expositional action, in an egregious case of "Tell, don't show." O tells us, for example, that "just because I'm telling you this story, it doesn't mean I'm alive at the end of it." We can only hope you're not, and thanks for giving us a clue about the ending, too. When she goes home to pack and sees that her mother is not home, she deduces that she's "somewhere in the world". Gee, that's an amazing insight - any thoughts on narrowing that down? "You don't change the world, it changes you..." Pardon me while I vomit.
I'm doing that thing now where I total up how many appearances each actor had in the movies I watched this year, because once I get to my last film (tentatively scheduled for Christmas Eve) I'm not going to have a lot of time. So it's best to start adding things up now and beat the holiday rush. It looks like Salma Hayek had a good year, this is the fifth film I've watched with her, and Benicio del Toro will also make the list, once I count tomorrow night's film. Unless something changes, some actors like John Travolta will fall short, with just two appearances - but sometimes less famous actors have good years, like Mia Maestro, who I probably couldn't even identify on sight, but this is the fourth film I've watched this year with her in it - so there are always some surprises on that list.
It's all pretty pointless now that pot's legal in California, right? I mean, surely there will be no more related criminal activity now, right?
Also starring Aaron Taylor-Johnson (last seen in "Anna Karenina"), Blake Lively (last seen in "Green Lantern"), Benicio Del Toro (last seen in "Inherent Vice"), Salma Hayek (last seen in "The Faculty"), John Travolta (last seen in "The Forger"), Demian Bichir (last seen in "The Heat"), Diego Cataño, Joaquin Cosio, Sandra Echeverria (last heard in "The Book of Life"), Mia Maestro (last seen in "Poseidon"), Shea Whigham, Trevor Donovan.
RATING: 4 out of 10 severed heads