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Friday, 25 September 2015

Western Of The Week: The Salvation (2014)


No genre quite embraces the revenge story like westerns.

Danish immigrant Jon Jensen (Mads 'Hannibal' Mikkelsen) has worked for seven years preparing his farm and raising the funds to ship his wife and child over from the motherland.

Unfortunately, on the day they arrive, and the family is traveling to Jon's home - that he shares with his laid-back brother Peter (Mikael Persbrandt), just outside the town of Black Creek - they end up sharing a stage coach with a couple of ne'er-do-wells with tragic consequences.

Jon, an ex-solider like his brother, quickly exacts revenge, but that's only the beginning of his troubles.

One of the men he kills (Once Upon A Time's Michael Raymond-James) happens to be the brother of the irredeemably loathsome land baron Colonel Henry Delarue (Jeffrey Dean Morgan, of Watchmen and Supernatural fame), an unbalanced ex-Indian killer, with ambitions to take over Black Creek.

Delarue, a gonzo pantomime villain of an antagonist, wants to buy up the town because of the oil beneath it that his paymasters have their beady eyes on.

He also lusts after his brother's mute wife, Madelaine (Penny Dreadful's Eva Green), and very quickly takes advantage of her loss.

Venting his anger on the townsfolk of Black Creek - which includes undertaker-mayor Nathan Keane (Jonathan Pryce) and sheriff-priest Mallick (Primeval's Douglas Henshall) - Delarue demands the capture of his brother's killer and it isn't long before the cowed inhabitants point the finger at Jon.

Despite aspiring to be the new Unforgiven, The Salvation is more spaghetti western in its execution (just check out the number of quirky, gimmicky deaths in the third act, for instance) with a script - from director Kristian Levring and co-writer Anders Thomas Jensen - that's not afraid to corral a few clichés along the way.

Eva Green's character, in particular, gets the short end of the stick, being little more than a trophy to be 'won' and whose development revolves around successive brutalisation until she is finally driven to fight back.

Given that Jon would have only known her as Delarue's sister-in-law and accountant, there's no real logic for why Jon saves her, mid-battle, from Delarue's lieutenant, The Corsican (ex-footballer Eric Cantona), except for the fact that she's Eva Green!

Shot in South Africa, The Salvation looks gorgeous, has great pacing and an ice cool central performance from Mads Mikklelsen - who really can do no wrong.

Plot wobbles and misogyny aside, The Salvation stands as a stylish, old school, western revenge movie.

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