Monday, November 9, 2015

Western Weekend: The Salvation

Thanks to our free trial of Showtime, I've been able to watch some cool flicks like Last Vegas, Judge Dredd, Starring Adam West, The Death of Superman Lives and Prophet's Prey. Over the weekend, new western from Denmark The Salvation premiered and was a fitting end to my days of horses, dusters and guns that started with Dolph Lundgren's Missionary Man and continued with Amazon's new pilot Edge. The angular and weirdcool Mikkelsen  has been on my radar since 2004's underrated men on a mission flick, King Arthur. That opened me up to his excellent work in the likes of drug dealing drama Pusher, cannibal black comedy The Green Butchers, life affecting melodrama After the Wedding, WWII action drama Flame and Citron and supernatural thriller The Door among others. He made a splash stateside as the villain in 2006's Casino Royale before popping up in Clash of the Titans and cult show Hannibal while earning raves in the excellent drama The Hunt. In The Salvation, Kristian Levring directs from a script from himself and Anders Thomas Jensen. Set in the 1870's, Jon (Mikkelsen) and brother Peter (Mikael Persbrandt) are two brothers who fought a losing war in Denmark then came to America for a new start. It's been 7 years since Jon had to leave his wife and kid as the film opens with them arriving at the train station. But their coach ride back to town carries a couple of fresh out of prison brutes and after a tense standoff, Jon is tossed from the wagon. His wife and son are killed but he shoots those mofos dead in return. Immediately this wasn't going to be some quasi arthouse update of Death Wish where a regular guy is pushed to the brink and reacts. We get Mads pushed into a corner he can't get out of without risking harm to his wife and son even though he almost gets the drop on the two former convicts. If this were a Dolph flick, he would have shot those sumbitches without warning.

Only problem is, convict's big bad brother Henry Delarue (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) runs the town Jon lives outside of and squeezes the locals into giving him up. After escaping Delarue's clutches, Jon uncovers a land grabbing scheme and must bring justice to the scared people who have seen their wives, husbands and relatives all mercilessly killed. Royale co-star Eva Green shows up as Madelaine, mute wife to the deceased Delarue who may or may not be an ally. Shot in South Africa, The Salvation is a beautiful film that takes full advantage of the dusty desert with vibrant cinematography and good use of the day and night visuals. Mikkelsen always excels at playing the upright and pure force versus the physical tough guy nature of Dolph or Max Martini. Here he plays a man capable of violence but it's not his chosen response until totally necessary. Morgan gets to play suave yet cruel while Green brings her usual mean-hot style to the table and gets to take care of business by the end. The violence is straight forward with people getting shot and beat in a non-sensationalist style but with plenty of blood and pain on display. An excellent flick and a fascinating take on the genre. At a quick 92 minutes, the film really kept things moving yet didn't feel rushed. There's so much detail and nuance in the characters, costumes and settings that a second viewing may be required on another sleepy Sunday afternoon.

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