In the case of Savages, I suppose the developing read is that it's just a tired, cheap piece of sensationalist exploitation. It's certainly easy to dismiss it as that if you're so inclined. It's harder for me though as I tend to take a lot of Stone’s admittedly broad sketches of humanity pretty seriously (the comment that Hayek makes here about why the main characters’ threesome works is dead on, for instance). I think he's got a very real understanding of something that goes deep and his best work is that which most thoroughly fills in the details of those larger sketches. For a variety of reasons I doubt Savages was ever conceived to be one of his most thorough societal assessments. Still, there is enough here to justify the experience as more than the sum of its supremely aestheticized parts.
Though the surface is shock cinema/trite thriller (effective enough to make the guy a few seats away from me hold his head in his hands right off during the video of the dismemberment and wail, "JESUS CHRIST!!") that is just the surface and in this case there's more to it than that. Admittedly the "more to it" may very well not convince anyone either as it's more 'o the same from Stone, I guess; but I don't know why that should automatically demand that it be discounted, as though he hasn't been developing an entire cinematic perspective upon these themes and ideas. It's not just the ideas, of course (which are the usual things about false or inadequate notions of civilization, weeding out the weak, women of power vs. presumptive whores, etc.), it's the way that stuff is communicated that irritates people. It's the fact that Stone makes no effort to be subtle with the introduction of any of these themes and, in fact, is often quite direct (this is held against him, under the assumption that it indicates a simplistic morality but is seemingly never held against Michael Haneke). The problem I have with this problem others have is that it overlooks the details of the piece, the way Stone adroitly fills in his portraits and larger descriptions with often ironic information and genuinely nuanced visual cues (the flash cut to the news anchor's partially undone blouse in Natural Born Killers remains one of the most stunning, simple but profoundly powerful examples of this technique).
And that brings us to the already much maligned ending of Savages.