They Should Have Looked Up "Salvation" In The Dictionary Review

I guess killin' all those Indians for us must have addled his mind.

The title of The Salvation (2014) is inapt. There is no salvation here. Danish filmmaker Kristian Levring has, instead, created another entry in the how-living-in-the-west-really-sucked-probably subgenre of Westerns. Things get so grim, in fact, that one questions the plausibility of the exact brand of misery Levring and co-writer Anders Thomas Jensen establish here. The story begins with Jon Jensen (Mads Mikkelsen) waiting at the (implausibly busy) train station for the arrival of his wife and child from Denmark. Jon and his brother left Denmark after the Second Schleswig War and set up as hunters in the new West. Before nightfall, Jon's wife and son have been murdered and Jon has taken his revenge on the culprits. Little did he know, one of the perpetrators was the brother of the local psycho-land grabber, Delarue (Jeffrey Dean Morgan), who then exacts his own interpretation of biblical justice that begins a cycle of extreme violence.

Levring tries to walk the line between the stylized and the realistic. Terrible things can happen fast and everyone reaches a point at which they embark on a suicide mission to kill as many baddies as they can. On the other hand, a tyrant that extorts the town for racket money and then murders its citizens nearly at random is harder to believe here. The townspeople don't simply accept their lot, they obediently enforce Delarue's judgments with gusto. Delarue invokes "an eye for an eye" for his brother and pal, so they round up two folks for Delarue to execute. The sheriff of the town, by the way, is a minister who thinks he's protecting his flock by mitigating Delarue's damage.

This kind of repulsive subservience may be believable in The Seven Samurai since you can't fight a group of trained soldiers--Delarue & Co. all being uniformed in Union blue coats--without skill and strength. But twenty gun fighters against twenty armed civilians is something they probably would tried before picking two innocents to be slaughtered. The Tarantino-like glee in setting the forces of evil in the form of Union soldiers and an actual man of the clothe comes out as a juvenile bit of European polemic. The same is true of the cinematography with lighting and saturation levels that are supposed to be cool looking more like botched CGI and bad Day-for-Night. Add in Eva Green as the ill-used, tongue-free widow and we've got bargain basement Zack Snyder on our hands.

Still, it's a western and the action is enjoyable--happily with less gore than Snyder would have employed. So, while it isn't the interesting sort of genre-stretching fare one might have hoped from a foreign filmmaker--like Sergio Leone, for example--it is mostly well-acted and entertaining.

Bonus features

Interviews with cast and crew, Behind the Scenes featurette, and a trailer.

"The Salvation" is on sale August 4, 2015 and is rated R. Western. Directed by Kristian Levring. Written by Anders Thomas Jensen, Kristian Levring. Starring Eva Green, Jeffrey Dean Morgan, Mads Mikkelsen.

Jason Ratigan • Staff Writer

A lawyer-turned-something-else with a strong appreciation for film and television.  He knows he can't read every great book ever written, but seeing every good movie ever made is absolutely doable.  Check out his other stuff on Wordpress.


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