LFF film review: The Salvation Print
Written by Ivan Radford   
Tuesday, 14 October 2014 00:04
Director: Kristian Levring
Cast: Mads Mikkelsen, Jeffrey Dean Morgan, Eva Green, Eric Cantona

The Salvation is a revenge Western starring Mads Mikkelsen. If that sentence has got your attention, you'll find a lot to enjoy. The problem is that you'll also find a lot to annoy.

Kristian Levring's movie ticks all the genre boxes you could wish for: Hats. Guns. Horses. People firing guns while wearing hats. People firing guns while wearing hats and riding horses. It also boasts one heck of a cast: finally, Mad Mikkelsen, Eva Green and Eric Cantona are together in the same film. Even Jonathan Pryce and Jeffrey Dean Morgan turn up for their share of the action.

It's so busy ticking the boxes you expect, though, it never ticks the one labelled "remarkable". Mads plays Jon, a Dane whose wife and son are raped and murdered after they arrive to join him in the fortune-seeking West. But after Jon shoots the perpetrators dead, it turns out one is the brother of local outlaw Delarue (Morgan), who terrorises the town until someone admits they pulled the trigger.

Naturally, things conspire so that Mads goes on a one-man quest for vengeance: a killing spree that Levring shoots with a beautiful eye, dialling up the saturation to picture book levels. But if the visuals are top-notch, the script is definitely from the bottom shelf. Co-written with Anders Thomas Jensen, the screenplay boasts some truly terrible dialogue - "We've been hoping and praying for a man like you," says the Sheriff to Jon, completely straight-faced - and some introductory titles that manage to be both pointless and clumsy. It's hard to believe that Jensen only just finished writing Susanne Bier's superb and subtle Love Is All You Need.

The script's problems are most obvious, though, when it comes to character. Sure, Mads gives good gruff as our hero and Dean Morgan is suitably squinty as the menacing villain, but what of the others? A young boy running the convenience store appears to be nothing but bullet fodder, while Eva Green is wasted as a mute, two-dimensional sidekick to Delarue, who is reduced to glaring at people to try and develop a character. She doesn't even get to wear a hat.

Things play out exactly as you'd expect: the other women are equally two-dimensional stereotypes, the corrupt mayor gets their comeuppance and blood splatters everywhere. It's a pleasure to see a Western in 2014, especially one that's 89 minutes in length, but The Salvation only just finds redemption come the ending. The Salvation is a revenge Western starring Mads Mikkelsen. On the plus side, it does exactly what it says on the tin. On the down side, it does exactly what it says on the tin.