At first it seems like fun. Then the horror sets in.
Linda Linguvic | New York City | 06/06/2003
(5 out of 5 stars)
"James Boyle, the journalist who actually lived this fascinating story, wrote this 1986 screenplay along with Oliver Stone, who also directed it. It takes place in El Salvador during in the early 1980s. War was raging and, depending upon which version you believe, it was either a Civil war against the military government or a potential communist takeover. People are being murdered every day and it's an awful place to be.James Woods stars as James Boyle, a freelance journalist who had formerly been a reporter in Vietnam. His life in California is spinning out of control. He has no money, his wife has left him, and he craves the excitement of being where the action is. He and his disk jockey friend, Doctor Rock, played by James Belushi, drive down to El Salvador, drinking and drugging and spinning bad jokes all the way. At first it all seems like fun.Then reality hits. And the two friends are plunged into the violence. There's one scene after another that made me cringe in horror. And yet, James Woods is quite a con man and keeps getting himself and his friend out of scrapes by his fast talking and former connections. He falls in love with a local woman, tells it like it is to the American Ambassador, and keeps getting into trouble. There's lots of action and lots of people getting killed. And yet, it's mainly about the personalities of the two lead characters. This adds a light touch to the horror that surrounds them.It's a fast paced film without one dull moment. I couldn't stop watching and wondering what would happen next. The DVD extras feature a long documentary about the making of the film. That was interesting background and added to my enjoyment although by then I was dozing off. During the actual film, however, falling asleep would have been impossible.Highly recommended."
Gritty, Alive And Powerful.
Mr. Fellini | El Paso, Texas United States | 07/06/2001
(5 out of 5 stars)
""Salvador" is a gritty, unrestrained trip into the chaos that is civil war, not just in the country it portrays, but civil war in any culture. It is Oliver Stone's first major movie and it vibrates with the passion and vibrant drive seen in his later works. This movie is so powerful and effective precisely because it feels REAL. There are scenes that almost have a documentary feeling to them. The camera work by Robert Richardson is gritty and rich at the same time while the screenplay by Stone and the real Richard Boyle is filled with wild moments, powerful scenes and hilarious comic touches. The performances are grade-A. James Woods is wicked but with a touching heart in this performance, it's probably his best. Jim Belushi is brilliantly funny. But "Salvador" aside from being a great entertainment, is also an important film document of the realities of war, of what happened in El Salvador and of the realities of what happened there. Like Stone's Vietnam movies, "Salvador" opens the eyes and ears and mind to what really was going on. It is an effective movie about events that happen in little corners of the world."
The horror of Civil War
Carlos Osorio | Los Angeles, CA USA | 10/08/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Watching this film of how El Salvador was torn apart from 1980-1992 is something not only Salvadoreans remember, but many people from different countries. Showing that in this particular Civil War there was really no good or bad side. A conflict of misunderstanding. For my parents and many Salvadoreans that migrated here to the United States, definitely the true meaning of trying to find a better life."
Two thumbs up!
B. Berthold | Somewhere out west... | 06/09/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Without a doubt, Oliver Stone's masterpiece, 'Salvador,' is a great piece of film-making. Gritty, raw, and unrelentless, it drags you into a grim miasma of savagery and forces you to face a truly shameful chapter in American foreign policy. 1980, El Salvador. While Carter and Reagan slug it out for the keys to the world's largest 'democracy,' the wealthy elite of this Central American paradise realize their days of exploiting the have-nots are slowly eclipsing. With their CIA-trained advisors and Huey gunships, they embark on an all-out terror campaign to eliminate any opposition to their jack-booted oligarchy.Up in safe El Norte, washed-out photo-journalist Richard Boyle (James Woods) spends his time evading rent, staring at soiled diapers and hungering for renewal, when Salvador comes knocking at his door. With his ravaged Ford Mustang, Boyle persuades his best friend (James Belushi) to accompany him on his grand adventure. Cruising down the verdant spine of Central America, things start to wrong, DESPERATELY WRONG as the tequila-swilling losers cross into El Salvador. Burnt-out cars, charred bodies and straw-hatted thugs block their way. Boyle's easy-living decadence gets a wake-up call. Here, there's no guarantee you have'll a tomorrow, much less a today. Boyle weasels himself out of danger by chumming with the head of the local death squad. Saved. But only momentarily, as Boyle and Co. sink deeper into the murderous quicksand that threatens to swallow them.With the help of his ex-lover, Boyle begins to find the meaning his life has been lacking of late. In fact, he slowly realizes the need for a 'salvation' of sorts, when he reaffirms a childhood faith upon the urgings of his girlfriend. Yet, Boyle's real salvation comes with his engagement in the bigger picture. Forced to take sides, he first tries to stop the mayhem his own government has sanctioned and then slowly learns that in war, everybody's hands are bloody. Knowing that his film rolls are the only hope for change, he ditches his dreams of Pulitzer-glory and escapes north with lover and children in tow. Almost on the verge of death, Boyle scraps through to the land 'where you can do anything you want,' only to be tragically robbed of that which has redeemed him.With 'Salvador,' Stone has crafted an intricate political thriller where there are no easy answers. True to his colors, Stone deals his country an extremely shady hand in this film. With the exception of Boyle and his sidekick, the Americans portrayed in this film are nothing short of caricatures. With their coiffed blonde-hair, Don Ho shirts and cardigans, they scream of arrogant imperialism, blinded by fear, 'if Salvador falls, we'll have tanks on Rio Grande!' and by pure greed. Over-the-top no doubt, but not without grounds, lest we forget Allende's Chile. But Stone is no mere polemicist, he DOES show the murky complexity of things, the often-clouded demarcation between good and evil. For example, Uncle Sam-bashing Boyle gets his fanny saved by the very same US ambassador whom he chides earlier on. And while Stone gives a ridiculously idyllic portrait of the marxist guerillas as gentle Tao-spouting Che Guevara's, he avoids outright idolatry by throwing light on their cruelties as well.'Salvador' will grip you by the senses and won't let you go. Although the sadism and rhetoric are sometimes hard to digest, we are nonetheless saved from total despair by the odd pop-ups of quirky humour, like Boyle at confession...."does this mean I can still smoke a couple of joints?" And above all, its James Wood's performance that carries this film into the GREAT category. Mesmerizing with his high-pitched whine and ADD-like hyperactivity, Woods IS the archetypal Hunter S. Thompson gonzo-journalist! Belushi provides sterling support as his Sancho Panza sidekick always looking for the pain-less way out.In a way, 'Salvador' IS the modern Don Quixote story. With his lance replaced with a Nikon, Wood's Boyle shows us the noble futility of thinking we alone are enough to save ourselves and others."