Benicio Del Toro and Demian Bichir talk about eye-to-eye combat in ‘Savages’

The last film I screened at the Cannes Film Festival this year was “Seven Days In Havana,” an anthology film about life in Cuba.  One of the segments was directed by Benicio Del Toro, and he was there on stage along with Gaspar Noe, Laurent Cantet, Julio Medem, and the others.  Del Toro seemed like he was humbled to be standing onstage among the other filmmakers, and it was interesting to see this wildly charismatic guy at his most human and nervous.

That charisma is on full display in “Savages,” where he plays Lado, a disgusting enforcer for the Baja Cartel.  It’s one of those performances where every little detail, every choice that Del Toro made, plays into the character and the story.  Lado is like a shark, and in those moments where the protective membrane rolls up over his eyes, metaphorically speaking, just before he tears into some poor bastard, Del Toro is terrifying.  It’s great work, and he seems to relish every moment he has in the film.

Sitting down to talk to him, I was surprised to see him paired with Demián Bichir, who was so tremendously good in “A Better Life” last year.  Bichir has an interesting role in “Savages,” a sort of middle-management cartel figure, and in one of the most memorable scenes in the film, Bichir and Del Toro end up on opposite sides of an interrogation.  It’s brutal and awful and something we had to discuss with the both of them.

As is true of many of Oliver Stone’s film, this cast is dense with ridiculously talented actors, and sitting down with two guys who are this good in the same morning was a treat.  I met Bichir around Christmas of this year, when Summit threw a big holiday event and he was there to talk about “A Better Life.”  I think he’s one of those guys that Hollywood is still underestimating him.  I’ve seen the effect he has on the ladies, and I think if someone smart cast him in the right role, he could really devastate an audience.

And Del Toro may have a second career ahead as a filmmaker.  His segment of “Seven Days In Havana” is one of the stand-outs in the film, and it features a very funny Josh Hutcherson performance.  Even if he doesn’t end up directing again or often, it’s a very promising piece of work, and coupled with his performance here, it seems obvious that Del Toro still has plenty of surprises ahead for audiences.

And if you haven’t read it, here’s my review of the film.

“Savages” opens everywhere tomorrow.