It's your typical Oliver Stone drug-dealing, three-way love story.
Boy meets boy, boys starts creating high-end marijuana, boys meet girl, boys share girl. And they all live happily ever after ... almost.
Things are good for Ben (Aaron Johnson), a Buddhist, who believes in a non-violent approach to the distribution of high-quality weed; and his best friend, Chon (Taylor Kitsch), his partner in crime, a former Navy SEAL with Iraq and Afghanistan tour experience, who is a little less concerned about involving violence with business. The two, living in a beautiful house overlooking Laguna Beach, share the affections of O - short for Ophelia - (Blake Lively), who like her boyfriends, enjoys the cush and the cash.
The money is rolling in and the heat is low as the two dealers have Dennis (John Travolta), a corrupt DEA official in their pocket.
When a new southern California player, the Baja Cartel from Mexico, takes notice of the boys' success while expanding its reach into their territory, things take a turn for the worse. Initially, the cartel, run by Elena (Salma Hayek), offers the boys an 80/20 agreement in exchange for their expertise. The cartel, in turn, will take care of growing the customer base, providing protection and ensuring the distribution.
Instead of accepting the partnership deal, Ben offers to just give the business to the cartel, suggesting, much against Chon's wishes, that the two have been looking to get out of the business and go into green energy development.
Insulted, Elena invokes her henchman, Lado (Benicio Del Toro), to ensure the boys' cooperation. O is abducted and held as security to guarantee the boys' participation for the first year of the three-year partnership agreement.
Chon is ready for a fight, and while appearing to be going along with the plan, enlists the help of former Navy SEALS, and reluctant Ben, to begin taking the cartel down a little at a time. The ultimate goal: Get O back using any and all means necessary.
For those who think this movie somehow glorifies the drug dealer industry, let me assure you it does not. People getting shot, double-crossed and having their heads lopped off with a chainsaw is not a ringing endorsement for weed dealer as a career choice. As a matter of fact, one might actually reconsider their use of recreational drugs after getting a stark look at what their dollars are supporting.
Stone doesn't glamorize the seedy industry (no pun intended). It's rough; it's brutal. Those at the top of the food chain live large; those in the trenches have short life expectancy.
The movie was gritty and well done. Credit the actors for delivering the realism needed to make this thing work, but Stone has a way of getting that from his performers. The film features strong camera work and realistic, graphic scenes of torture.
It's a hard peak behind the curtain of the drug industry that tells the story nobody wants to talk about when the "experts" insist marijuana doesn't hurt anyone.