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artisanal film reviews | by maryann johanson

The Salvation movie review: manifest density

The Salvation red light Mikael Persbrandt

Nearly Blazing Saddles without the jokes: all genre conventions with none of the fun, just your inescapable expectations met around every sun-blighted corner.
I’m “biast” (pro): love Mads Mikkelsen and Eva Green

I’m “biast” (con): nothing

(what is this about? see my critic’s minifesto)

There’s clichés in them thar hills. A motherlode, even. Danish filmmaker Kristian Levring’s (The Intended) Western is so unabashedly crammed with stereotypes and contrivances that it’s hard to see how anyone involved kept a straight face while shooting. (The character who is both preacher and sheriff is a particular unintended hoot.) The Salvation is nearly Blazing Saddles without the jokes: it’s all genre conventions with none of the fun, just your inescapable expectations confirmed around every sun-blighted corner. It’s 1870, and cartoon villain Delarue (Jeffrey Dean Morgan: They Came Together) is running a protection racket in a small town somewhere out in the dusty West. (The film was shot in South Africa, and looks nicely sandblasted.) Except Delarue is actually up to something else: he’s working for a mysterious nefarious company that is buying up land for some unknown reason. Because of course they are. You will guess instantly the reason for the landgrab, though of course it’s entirely beside the point. The point is all about how a man picks his battles, and what’s honor and what’s cowardice anyway? How should a man feel when his wife and son are murdered (after his wife is raped, of course) by Delarue’s henchmen? Jon (Mads Mikkelsen: The Hunt), a former soldier in Denmark’s war with Germany, had no intention of going up against Delarue, but Jon didn’t know it was Delarue’s henchmen he killed for their crime. So hooray! The town has a savior. If only accidentally. I love Mikkelsen and I love Eva Green (Sin City: A Dame to Kill For) even more — she plays Delarue’s partner in crime — but even my fangirl adoration could not make this anything other than pure tedium for me.

first viewed during the 58th BFI London Film Festival


See also my #WhereAreTheWomen rating of The Salvation for its representation of girls and women.


red light 1 star

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The Salvation (2015)
US/Can release: Feb 27 2015 (VOD same day)
UK/Ire release: Apr 17 2015

MPAA: rated R for violence throughout
BBFC: rated 15 (strong violence)

viewed at a private screening with an audience of critics

official site | IMDb
more reviews: Movie Review Query Engine | Rotten Tomatoes

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  • RogerBW

    It’s a thing one sees from time to time – someone from a country without a huge filmmaking tradition makes something so blatantly genre-imitative that even Hollywood wouldn’t fund it. But I wouldn’t have put Denmark in that class.

  • The really weird thing is, this was cowritten by the guy who wrote the amazing and genre-busting A Second Chance, and I see absolutely no hint of that here.

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