THE GARLOCK INCIDENT: Broken American Dreams En Route to Las Vegas

The Garlock Incident. 2012. Directed & Written by Evan Cholfin; from a story by Cholfin, Ariana Farina, & Ana Lily Amirpour.
Starring Ana Lily Amirpour, Adam Chambers, Sean Durrie, Joy Howard, Alycen Malone, Sean Muramatsu, Casey Ruggieri, & Larissa Wise.
Not Rated. 78 minutes.

FullSizeRenderI’m of two minds: you can make found footage and not worry too much about ‘following the rules’ of the format so long as the story’s good, scary, exciting; or, you can make found footage while sticking to the format’s unwritten rules, working to make the film feel entirely genuine as a piece of recovered footage. The Garlock Incident is of the latter class, feeling exactly as if this film was picked up from a discarded camera somewhere out in the desert.
What makes this found footage better is not only do we deal with an intense, disturbing plot on the surface, beneath there’s much to admire. The Garlock Incident explores themes of the urban v. rural landscape, how societal norms and morality breaks down outside of the city, among others. Most of all, it acts as an overall metaphor about the deteriorating American Dream by contrasting it against the physical space of Old America.
Putting a group of friends on the road to Las Vegas, on their way to make a film directed by Ana Lily Amirpour (herself an actual, awesome director), director-writer Evan Cholfin crafts a sneaky little found footage film that teases all sorts of elements, but ultimately works on suspense, tension, and draws out a psychological horror that will stick with you well after that story comes to a close.
FullSizeRender (1)Straight away, the opening just jumps into footage; as a genuinely filmed road trip would, with no title, no opening scene like a traditional film, none of that. Not even the typical “On such-and-such date a group of…” Rather, we’re thrust directly into the characters and the plot. The immediacy of how we’re brought into the film allows the found footage format a sense of feeling genuine.
Furthermore, setting this as being footage from a film crew, of friends, heading to begin the shoot on a film gives the footage purpose. Found footage without purpose can often wind up feeling dishonest, because if doing found footage, why not make sure to pose it as actual footage that was found? Otherwise, might as well film traditionally. Lily directing the film within a film lends more authenticity.
Best part of the film is its tension, how Cholfin uses vast stretches of desert to allow isolation to take hold of the viewer. Ambient noise from the wind punctuates silent moments filled with suspense. Instead of the obligatory shaky cam filming of many found footage efforts, The Garlock Incident thrives on longer, controlled, still, silent shots. In these moments, these gaps, our imagination runs wild. These psychological spaces are where the best horror of the film works its nasty magic.
FullSizeRender (3)The haunted mining town setup evokes a sense of American Western tales meets the Gothic tradition, starting a spooky atmosphere. Works on another level, though. The old American Dream is symbolised by the gold mining town, the former path to glory which led many to their demise. Contrast that with the new American Dream, being in the movies, obviously represented by Lily and her friends making a film.
Where it all comes together is in the middle, precipitating an existential haunting. Of course there’s the mystery of what’s actually happening, are they going crazy, or is someone messing with them? Mystery gives way to paranoia, which then gives way to worse, the unimaginable. People get hurt. Some may die. As many often do, through drug overdose or otherwise, people die in pursuit of the American Dream on the silver screen. In the ghost town of Garlock exists the allegorical space where these two visions of the American Dream merge, causing chaos. This is illustrated in tandem with the editing of clips from earlier auditions for the film, candid moments amongst the group, as we see the shattered dream v. the idyllic American dream, the before and after, cutting from the happier moments to the later more unnerving and downright disturbing scenes sometimes in the matter of seconds.
Ultimately, in the face of the unknown, a perceived threat, the group’s morality is gradually questioned, some of them teetering precariously on an edge until the film’s shocking climax and quick finale. This all works towards the thematic consideration of what happens to people, socially, when they step outside the boundaries of their urban spaces, into the wilderness of the rural landscape. When these people, city dwellers, go outside their limits, their comfort even, they’re faced with the primitivity of humankind. In the end, this determines what happens to the characters, if they given in to their primitive side or not.
FullSizeRender (2)Cannot recommend this movie more. Found footage will always get a chance, from me. I’m willing to give anything a shot, because there’s a craving for the deeper subjects, the scarier stories, either supernatural or utterly human. The Garlock Incident plays with the audience’s expectations, then by the final frame you’re left reconsidering everything that came previously.
There’s a horrifying climax to the film, shot from a far physical distance. However, this literal distance cannot figuratively distance us from the brutality of its emotion, giving way to a conclusion that’s one hell of a gut punch. The last five minutes challenge us to go back, look at the events which led us and the characters to that moment, and the film’s last shot before a cut to black is expected after what preceded it, yet it’s no less shattering.
Seek this out, it’s available now via Google Play. Waited several years to see this, truly worth the wait. The acting holds up, a dreadful tension full of suspense and isolation fills the air. If you want blood, this isn’t the film you’re looking for, but if you want something that’ll creep under your skin, likely to stay a while, then you’ve found the ticket. A nice, eerie found footage film for the Halloween season.


ESCAPE FROM TOMORROW Deconstructs Disney & the Happiest Place on Earth

Escape from Tomorrow. 2013. Directed & Written by Randy Moore.
Starring Roy Abramsohn, Elena Schuber, Katelynn Rodriguez, Jack Dalton, Danielle Safady, Annet Mahendru, Lee Armstrong, Kimberly Ables Jindra, Trey Loney, & Amy Lucas.
Mankurt Media
Not Rated. 90 minutes.

Escape from Tomorrow 1Just the fact that Randy Moore’s film Escape from Tomorrow exists is a gift. Even if you don’t enjoy it there’s a guerrilla quality of filmmaking which grips tight, and the imagery, if anything, is impressive. Without permission from Disney, Moore and his crew infiltrated Disneyland and Walt Disney World with their minimal equipment, iPhones holding the scripts, and more. Afterwards, Moore absconded to South Korea (special effects provided by the same company who worked on The Host) where he edited the film, for fear Disney might do anything in their power to stop him from making it, let alone releasing it.
Sure enough, we’ve been graced with a daring, surreal piece of cinema due to his efforts, as well as the efforts of a dedicated crew and some talented actors. This vision of the happiest place on Earth grew out of Moore having visited the park as a kid, mixed up with memories and feelings from his life at the time. Like a cocktail of childhood dreams, as fantastical as they are terrifying.
This won’t be everyone’s cup of tea. Particularly if you’re American and you hold Disney sacred. But it isn’t only surrealism, there’s a genuine plot. Still, this is a divisive film. It attacks and deconstructs the American Dream, in no better place than Disneyland. So while it’s not as if Moore engages in blasphemy, to some it may feel that way. The famed park goes from the happiest place on Earth to a place filled with nightmares, a much different vision than what children experience, as we’re taken through in the perspective of an adult who’s not a carefree kid anymore.
Escape from Tomorrow 3But you cant be happy all the time.”
Essentially, we begin right as the weight of adulthood and responsibility is bearingcrushing down onto Jim (Roy Abramsohn). In his hotel room, on the last day of a family vacation, he finds out he’s fired from his job. His wife Emily (Elena Schuber) doesn’t know, he hides it from her. Thus begins the American Nightmare at Disneyland. Instead of that carefree enjoyment his children experience, Jim experiences a surreal, horrific park that seems directed at the deepest, darkest parts of his mind.
At its core, Escape from Tomorrow is about the existential trap of Disney’s attractions. In that the regular, everyday person like Jim is forking out big dollars to take his family on vacation. Simultaneously he loses his job, yet he can’t be happy: he’s at the happiest place on Earth, right? So, in a sense, this existential, twofold struggle between the part of him that’s desperately stressed and the other side which feels he has to keep up the illusion, to make sure his children, the other people in the park aren’t disturbed by his unhappiness in the very place that dictates you cannot be sad while you’re there.
If a dreamy place like Disneyland can actually be a physical space, then if the dream turns to nightmare this nightmarish headspace then is as real as the rides themselves. The deterioration of Jim’s life and marriage while in such a forcibly happy environment is like amplified tragedy at work and his surreal experience confronts us with a visual metaphor of this breakdown. Starting with ride disappointments, brief visions Jim has, seeing two recurring French girls and confronting Jim’s ugly, forbidden temptation; this last bit especially hits hard, because Disney is supposed to be so kid and youth friendly that a married family man like him lusting after these girls is even creepier than it would be in the outside, normal world. Moreover, kids, as in any bad marriage, take the brunt of what’s happening far too often, represented by Jim’s son vomiting, tarnishing the clean and pretty image of the park, plus his daughter tripping, skinning her knee in a nasty fall.
Escape from Tomorrow 5 (1)The surrealism makes the film what it is, a combination of absurdism and outright wild, hallucinatory imagery that somehow feels – for Jim and the viewer alike – of vivid consciousness. Right off the bat, the black-and-white cinematography does wonders by giving this very American movie that sense of a Hollywood classic, playing into the theme of Disneyland as an American dreamspace in a physical location before becoming horrifically surreal.
Added to that is the endless imagery. Often, Moore juxtaposes that happy ideal of Disney with an outright vulgarity, ugliness, or horror that resonates: Jim’s bloody toe + sock that gets progressively worse, symbolic of his mental state; Emily sees the French girls and their faces become ghoulish; even the princesses working at the park become call girls for Asian businessmen, deconstructing that almost holy image of the Disney princess as the iconography of innocence. This also leads to the wonderful comparison of Disney at day v. Disney at night, strikingly transitioned when Emily boils over and slaps her daughter across the face. The biggest, most striking piece is a brief hallucination of the EPCOT Center coming free from the foundation, rolling with an explosion over crowds of fleeing families, their perfect little vacation flattened on the concrete.
Bad things happen everywhere. Especially here.”
Moore deconstructs the American ideal of Disney through Jim and his family’s nightmare vacation, but the other characters add to the surrealism of Escape from Tomorrow. For instance, the weepy nurse, whom Jim and his daughter visit after she scrapes her knee. The nurse breaks down, crying, almost a warning that things are not what they seem. More than that she’s a marker of the bits of absurdist humour weaved into the story. Nearly a Lynchian moment. Also, the creeper in the motorised chair who shows up before the nurse, again running into Jim when he’s cleaning his bloody sock in the washroom, and again after that, too. Just his smile, his voice, it’s all eerie and rife with absurdity. Again there’s a warning in the absurdism, telling Jim: this place ain’t right. If only he listened.
Escape from Tomorrow 5Escape from Tomorrow 6With a perfectly morbid end, suggesting the lengths to which Disney might go to protect their happiest place on Earth status so as not to disturb any guests, Escape from Tomorrow concludes a feverish vision of the American Dream subverted into the polar opposite, a quintessentially American Hell. Final moment is a cynical, chilling view of the sanitised, Disneyfied, picture perfect commercial that the company wants you to believe is the ONLY experience available at their perfect parks.
People are programmed to see Disney in a certain way, which is why this film will bother some people. They’ll say it’s dumb, or it makes no sense. Really, they’re afraid to admit that places made of dreams can easily be places made of nightmares. Disney’s postured as a park where they provide everyday people respite from life’ problems.
Therefore, the title: Escape from Tomorrow. It isn’t so much a play on the Tomorrowland attraction, first opened in 1955. Rather it’s a play on escaping one’s future, delaying tomorrow by going to Walt Disney World. But as the film wears on it’s an omen, ironically one from which there’s no escape for Jim. The film presents the park as a paradox: a place where you can go with your family to escape the responsibilities and concerns of the real world, but one where those same concerns are amplified in juxtaposition with such dream-like perfection, a place from which, ultimately, nobody might escape if the paradox takes its toll on their mind.

1987’s THE STEPFATHER: Start Worrying More About Who Mom Dates

The Stepfather. 1987. Directed by Joseph Ruben. Screenplay by Donald E. Westlake.
Starring Jill Schoelen, Terry O’Quinn, Shelley Mack, Charles Lanyer, Stephen Shellen, Stephen E. Miller, Robyn Stevan, & Jeff Schultz.
Incorporated Television Company.
Rated. R. 89 minutes.

posterDirector Joseph Ruben did the cult flick Dreamscape, going on later to direct Sleeping with the Enemy and an underrated creepy kid horror starring Macaulay Culkin and Elijah Wood, The Good Son. But in between he did his most chilling bit of work: 1987’s The Stepfather.
Many people now know Terry O’Quinn as the philosophically named Lost character John Locke; a role he owned. For me, the fascination with his work started at this film. His performance as bad stepdad Jerry Blake is like the ultimate epitome of your worst nightmare. He’s the worst possible dude your mom could bring home after she gets back on the dating scene. And with a few flaws, the movie gets its boost from O’Quinn going wide off the rails in the best kind of way.
The Stepfather does its brief flashes of horror right, always staying psychological and occasionally venturing into the visceral. Using O’Quinn and his manic abilities, along with Jill Schoelen (later starred in the surprisingly great 1993 sequel to When A Stranger Calls) whose performance as the stepdaughter is equally as powerful, Ruben crafts one of the scarier movies of the late ’80s. You’ll see this on a few lists here and there, although overall people don’t give it the credit deserved.
pic1-1Who am I here?”
We open on a sinister scene, immediately preying on the concept of the family unit. O’Quinn’s calm, blood-covered face quickly demolishes the sanctity of the family and the home, as we’re introduced to his suburban killer chameleon act. In between him washing up and leaving is a deliberate, measured shot of the family photos along the stairway wall. Right there amidst the chaos. On his way out, the carnage, blood, the terror are all shocking, including a dead little child right by the door – almost near enough to have gotten away. Truly one of the most unhinged openers to a horror I’ve ever seen.
Part of the great writing is that, with this vicious scene to start the film there’s an elimination of all clueless-ness: we know the killer, we’ve seen what he does and now we know where he’s headed. All this is telegraphed. So what I dig about the screenplay most is that the writing then has to create all the suspense and every bit of tension with Jerry Blake moving on to another family. That suspense comes from waiting it out – when will Jerry snap? Will he? You know he will, and that’s why it’s so delightfully awful.
And why’s the writing good? Donald E. Westlake, that’s why! He’s a classic writer that not enough people talk about. Having written iconic novels such as The Hunter which was adapted into the ’67 Point Blank with Lee Marvin, and The Jugger, a novel Jean-Luc Godard ripped off loosely (and shamelessly until sued) with Made in U.S.A. Westlake really attacks the American Dream of a happy little family by showing how the search for just that can drive some to terrible things, way past insanity. The original screenplay had flashbacks explaining the homicidal tendencies of Jerry, though I’m glad these were removed. Not enough room for that, and it spoils the intrigue of Jerry’s craziness. Without explanation he’s left as a monstrous psychopath, whose madness remains well concealed for so long until it can no longer keep hidden. Makes for a much scarier character.
Westlake loosely based Jerry Blake on real life multiple murderer John List – he killed his mother, along with his wife and three children, before disappearing. He was a fugitive nearly two decades, assuming a whole other identity and life, even remarrying. The writing brings this real life character into fiction, but does not make him cartoonish or inflate him too much. Between the writing and acting, Jerry is all too real.
pic2The whole film plays on a fear of not only someone replacing the father, it also takes everything up a notch by making the man replacing Stephanie’s (Schoelen) father an actual threat; a maniacal and relentless serial killer moving from one family to the next. A lot of young people hate their stepparents simply for the fact they’re not a real parent. But Westlake’s script makes Jerry the true terror of a teenager not wanting their mom to date again. Jerry represents the idea of starting over and beginning a new life after losing a family. Except Jerry brings on the necessity of having to start over by murdering those he pretends to love once the family disintegrates. It’s like a reversal of the evil stepmother trope too often employed in movies across all genres. Except Jerry is the evil stepfather, holding an entirely different motive than the archetypal bad stepmom – he is the man who wants a loving, perfect family so bad that he’ll kill for it. He shapeshifts from one family to another to accomplish this goal. As Jerry says himself: “The only reality is this moment.”
A perfect moment works for this concept: Jerry and the family put up a bird house, a picturesque little home like that of the American Dream. Up high on a pole, this is a symbol of Jerry’s inability to ever reach that perfect American Dream. It will always remain slightly out of his reach. The entire movie is one big allegory about suburban America, how it’s saccharine sweet and lovable on the outside, even with turmoil underneath boiling, and at the core many times it’s hideous and putrid.
There aren’t many instances of violence. However, the ones we get are downright brutal. For instance, Stephanie’s doctor is dispatched with absolute barbarity when Jerry beats him to death with a two-by-four piece of lumber; apparently audiences in ’87 felt this was almost too much, giving many nightmares. The psychological horror is never far from reach, like the scene where Stephanie witnesses Jerry, taking a break from their backyard BBQ, have a meltdown in private. This moment is just crazily unsettling, every time. The intense finale is suspenseful and excitingly paced, a nice horror-thriller finish. Some shots of Jerry stalking Stephanie through the halls of the house are reminiscent of Jack Torrance as he shambles slowly towards his son in that snowy hedge maze.
pic3The whole movie has great camerawork, from the opening scene giving us gradual peeks at the horror of Jerry’s M.O. to the finale with its fast and thrilling feel. One big complaint: the score. It is a terrible instance of ’80s music. Never fun, like other movies from the era with similar music. A couple brief moments work fine; those are few and far between.
Overall, this is a classic horror. The Stepfather touches a sensitive nerve, particularly in America where the focus on family in entertainment, whether in film or on television, has been strong since the invention of the moving picture. Jerry’s violation of the sacred familial unit, purposefully, is terrifying to anybody. Like putting the archetypal stepfather up there with the shark from Jaws, making him a symbol of dread which strikes at the heart of family values.
Don’t miss this one. Never underestimate Terry O’Quinn and his capability to creep people out. He is a great actor, his presence here lifts the material up. Regardless, it works and is a favourite of mine from the 1980s.

Uwe Gets Confused & Preachy with RAMPAGE: PRESIDENT DOWN

Rampage: President Down. 2016. Directed by Uwe Boll. Screenplay by Boll & Brendan Fletcher.
Starring Brendan Fletcher, Ryan McDonell, Steve Baran, Bruce Blain, Scott Patey, Michaela Mann, Anthony Rogers, Ralph Steiger, Victor Formosa, & Timo Weingaertner.
Momentum Pictures/Sony Pictures Home Entertainment.
Not Rated. 99 minutes.

POSTER The Rampage trilogy has fallen far since the first film. Honestly, it had flaws but the original was exciting, violent, it pulled no punches in a depiction of a mind gone wild. There’s a central story of the failure of the American Dream which somehow gets lost. Not that the first sequel was anything better. Yet at least Capital Punishment still kept focused on Bill, his one man rampage, rather than getting into the search for him and any of the people involved. Above all, the story of Bill Williamson is one that should’ve been kept smaller, more contained, succinct.
Ignoring any of that, Brendan Fletcher and Uwe Boll have forged on, writing more of the story. Their biggest crime is stretching the character of Bill too far. He’s all of a sudden even more of an expert in military tactics, from sniper rifles to landmines, et cetera. The only thing Bill had going for him in the previous two movies is that he was willing, ready to take on anything, and got his hands on an excellent Kevlar suit, plus a bunch of assault rifles and similar weaponry.
Out of the blue, Bill is a weapons expert. He’s made three sniper shots on the President, the Vice President, and Secretary of Defence; apparently from such a distance there could only be a handful of people on Earth to have made them. Really? It’s as if right from the start Fletcher and Boll’s script decides they don’t care about the character development to this point, and tossed credibility out the window. Sure, things got dicey before this sequel. You still figured there’s some kind of attention being paid to what makes sense in terms of the already established character. Aside from that, the original aim of Rampage and its central character has been utterly lost.
Boll keeps on breaking my heart. With a couple films he’d sucked me in. Between Capital Punishment and now President Down, he’s back to scraping the bottom of the barrel. Perhaps a good thing this is the last cinematic adventure from him we’ll see, unless he changes his mind about retirement down the line.
Pic1 Again, Boll shoots himself in the foot by retracing old steps. He makes the viewer feel stupid by going back over clips from the previous film, as he did IN the previous film with the first one. Just a connected train of bullshit. Maybe if Boll wanted to make things more interesting he’d have cut out those clips, then filled the holes with new, better dialogue. And if that wasn’t the biggest problem, the fact Boll wants to suspend our disbelief towards somehow accepting the fact Bill can expertly sniper with no military training, or any real prior history with actual guns before his titular rampage.
This is what I just cannot accept, not in the slightest. The way we’re supposed to believe he’s killed the President, along with two others, is ludicrous. Just too far gone to keep things grounded, in any way. Of course the first sequel went beyond what the original film tried to do, fairly effectively. But this third entry into the trilogy is too much to bear. Fletcher and Boll have stumbled over their own writing. Just like the previous entry, this one does nothing to capitalise on the original film’s success.
President Down rehashes, over and over, both through dialogue and also visually scenes which came before it. Some bits seem to be jammed into the story simply for effect, or to try and make Bill a more sympathetic, emotionally driven character. It’s more fun to have him as a psychopath, taking a message beyond its reasonable limits into murder and madness. Like, why the fuck does he have a son? What purpose does that aspect serve? This is not an empathetic character, in any sense, certainly not worthy of sympathy, either. And why is the woman he’s with, with whom he’s made a child, so intent on keeping him around in her life? It makes no sense to me, at all. As if it came from a totally different screenplay.
One part of the screenplay I enjoyed thoroughly is how it shows the reach of people like Williamson. There’s a person helping behind the scenes, and what that does is represent how even cops, businessmen, people we assume are behind America can actually become as disillusioned as a young man like the one with whom they’re dealing. The fact Bill has people out there, not just someone in a high up position who can help him but fans of all kinds amongst the citizens of his city (and beyond), is scary and sobering. Because you can bet if this did happen there’d be tons of clueless dummies out there online cheering for Bill, trying to help, offering what they can. Maybe in part due to the fact they wouldn’t realise the seriousness of what’s going on. But rest assured, there’d be very happy, willing participants on a war like the one Bill is waging against the U.S. Government.
The whole ISIS/refugee angle in the screenplay is sort of spot on. Today, the media latches onto anything ISIS says, when they claim certain terrorist acts and other events of violence were their work. Before any information is found, the media (+ dumb people online) say: “Well, they’ve claimed this and they’re the culprits.” So Boll and Fletcher do a solid bit of writing to add this into the plot. Partly it represents the real state of affairs. On the other hand, it plays into Bill’s rantings and ravings about the government. Once ISIS claims the President’s assassination in President Down, you may as well have President Trump sitting at the helm, closing down mosques and rounding Muslims up to be detained, deported, and who else knows what.
Pic2 There’s a lot of lame acting. Not Fletcher; once again, he’s one of the only reasons I made it through to the end. One of the worst culprits is Ryan McDonell, who plays an FBI agent named Vince Jones. He isn’t absolutely terrible, but some of the more important moments are flat because of his bad performance. None of the FBI agents are particularly good, they’ve got their own respective shortcomings. Steve Baran isn’t much better. When the big freak outs happen as the FBI realises Bill is likely steps ahead of them, both McDonell and Baran are equally incompetent.
Some of the dialogue betrays them. Most of all they’re just not good in their roles, they can’t sell what’s needed and their parts bog everything down. Part of what made the first film good, as well as the only good little pieces of the sequel, was that Bill had centre stage to himself. There were other characters. They didn’t take up space, cutting the legs out from under the screenplay’s pacing, as the FBI agents do here. If it weren’t for Fletcher, I probably wouldn’t make it through the entire film.
Don’t waste your time. The 1&1/2 out of 5 star rating I’ve given this is mostly because there are a couple decent action sequences. And yes, Fletcher gives a steady performance, as he has in the other two movies. There are so many things wrong with this third film that the just over 1,000 words I’ve written don’t even begin to cover the gamut. I did enjoy a couple scenes. Outside of that, President Down betrays the original movie and does nothing to make Bill Williamson grow, or change. It just takes Bill into a new realm of violence, a new level, which is in itself ridiculous because of how they try doing it. Either way, if you’re a completionist and want to watch it, go ahead. I warn you, though, there’s not much to enjoy. You’ll definitely find a better way to spend 99 minutes.

RAMPAGE: CAPITAL PUNISHMENT is a Wasted, Unworthy Sequel

Rampage: Capital Punishment. 2014. Directed by Uwe Boll. Screenplay by Boll & Brendan Fletcher.
Starring Brendan Fletcher, Lochlyn Munro, Mike Dopud, Michaela Mann, Bruce Blain, John Sampson, Nathan Lehfeldt, Uwe Boll, & Matt Frewer.
Boll Kino Beteiligungs GmbH& Co. KG.
Not Rated. 93 minutes.

POSTER I don’t like to rag on any filmmakers, no matter if their finished films are garbage. Because as a writer myself, as someone who has acted on stage a good deal throughout his life, I know exactly what it’s like to craft your art and then put it out for people to see. Not saying we need to pussyfoot around, holding in our true feelings. Not at all. I’d rather someone tell me what’s bad about my writing than for them to pretend it’s any good. Constructive criticism is better for that purpose, rather than completely tearing somebody down. Be critical, give your consensus about what you’ve seen (/heard/whatever) and try to help an artist grow. Don’t tear them down.
That’s something Uwe Boll has dealt with in droves throughout his 30+ films in a career spanning two and a half decades. Probably because, honestly, most of his films aren’t good. Yet I can admit when there are exceptions to the rule. For instance, the first Rampage movie was a lot of (dark) fun, and I think Boll both used his own rage at critics and the general changing attitudes about America to create a wild bit of action. I enjoyed Stoic, too. For all its terrifying morbid.
Boll does his first film a disservice with this sequel, Rampage: Capital Punishment. He had an interesting concept, a raw and genuine lead character. He used the action wisely, to pretty great effect. Some of the main character’s rants were a little over-the-top. They were enjoyable, though, and Boll hit a nerve with the character himself, the idea of a lost American Dream, how that idea then warps people into many twisted forms. But the sequel; my god, what a squandered opportunity. Boll doesn’t manage to capture much of what made the first film so unexpectedly enjoyable. It comes off as forced, even with a couple well designed and executed sequences. Most annoyingly, there are a bunch of clips from the original used, ad nauseum, and that’s something I really hate in sequels. Laziness, pure and simple. So what good will Uwe built up with the previous chapter, he all but totally undoes with Capital Punishment.
Pic1 The opening 20 minutes are a pain. With new footage of Bill Williamson (Fletcher) playing, we’re treated to a lot of confusingly edited flashbacks. It’s really a travesty of a sequence to start off the movie. Boll does himself no favours here, by getting slack with his writing and instead of things being exciting right off the bat they become sluggish. By the time Bill gets into rampage mode, it’s almost gotten boring. Certainly it’s predictable.
Certain parts of the rants from Bill get more tedious and trite in the sequel, as well. Boll made some nice, poignant (believe it or not) points in the first screenplay. Occasionally overboard, but mostly decent.
With this one he can’t resist, going mad over the page. Whereas the original plan by Bill sort of involves an attack on the failed American Dream, the lies government have built upon over the years, so on. In the beginning of this film, he’s almost advocating full scale genocide to reduce global population. I mean, there’s a limit where you have to say, okay this is off the rails. And it is, Boll loses sight now and then of exactly what he was trying to say. A few lines, such as a Karl Marx name drop and a nice tirade against Stephen Spielberg’s Lincoln, are actually awesome. Bill’s rants do sometimes touch on the appropriate nerve. More often than not they ramble on into irrelevance.
Pic2 One of the things which keeps the first movie so interesting, and one of this sequel’s only saving graces, is that Bill Williamson is played by Brendan Fletcher. The first time I noticed this guy was in a relatively obscure indie called Rollercoaster from 1999. He was fascinating, his character came off incredibly heartbreaking. From then on I knew to keep an eye on him. His acting sells Bill as a character, even when things get a bit contrived. He’s intense, he gives Bill a genuine feel at the most unhinged of times. There are a lot of actors who would’ve sent this movie spiralling downward quickly. At least with Fletcher playing the lead, Boll has someone capable of compelling the audience to stick with the story. If you get bored there’s still a nice performance out of this guy, whose talent is monstrous with the correct words in his mouth. Aside from Fletcher, there’s nobody else worth talking about. Lochlyn Munro plays his character well enough, although it’s nothing to write home about. Boll tries his hand at acting, once more, and well… y’know. Bless him for trying.
Pic3 There are fine references to such events as 9/11, Obama’s few blind spots (Guantanamo), a short slice of Marx. Bill Williamson has a good idea about the injustice happening in America, as well as plenty of rage towards the concept of that fabled, dying American Dream once. However, rage and emotional depth does not always make for a good screenplay. Boll’s extended an idea that, I personally find, worked well in the original Rampage.
Going into a sequel, even a third film after this, is taking the idea and the character too far. I have no problem with the violence; in fact, a lot of that is why the first one was so refreshing. Boll certainly goes for the jugular with some of the violent acts Williamson rains down upon his city. As an overall piece of cinema, Rampage: Capital Punishment does not work in any other capacity than something mediocre to do for an hour and a half. It has a lot of flaws and does nothing to capitalise on the original’s success.
I’ll soon be watching the third of this trilogy, supposedly Boll’s last film. While I don’t expect much, I wonder if maybe he’s somehow able to capture part of the spirit from the first. If not, the concept is wasted, and that’s a shame. In this day and age, I guy like Bill Williamson is – for film – something spectacular. His misuse isn’t surprising from Boll, just disappointing.

Running Scared Runs (Too) Wild on Crime

Running Scared. 2006. Directed & Written by Wayne Kramer.
Starring Paul Walker, Cameron Bright, Vera Farmiga, Chazz Palminteri, Karel Roden, Johnny Messner, Ivana Milicevic, Alex Neuberger, Michael Cudlitz, Bruce Altman, Elizabeth Mitchell, Arthur J. Nascarella, John Noble, Idalis DeLeon, & David Warshofsky. New Line Cinema/Media 8 Entertainment/True Grit Productions.
Rated 18A. 122 minutes.

I’m not a Paul Walker fan, there are only a couple movies I enjoy with him in it. This being one. He was never a bad actor, just never picked the greatest projects. Running Scared gives him a significantly meaty role into which he could chew. On top of that the entire story and its plots are super fun. This is part personal drama, part chase film, part mob movie, and more. You’ve got action, crime, lots of drama. If anything there’s almost too much involved throughout the screenplay. This is actually a great little flick, one destined for more cult status as the years wear on. Part of its flaws lie in the wild nature of the writing, the over-the-top elements get a bit tiresome. Part of its excitement also lie in the very same thing. So this movie remains a good example of when weird gets a little out of hand. Despite the nonsense, Running Scared gets exciting, thrilling, even slightly disturbing. There’s no getting past the flaws, sadly. What might have ended up a solid action-crime flick gets too convoluted for its own good, never able to grab that foothold necessary to climb past its bored trappings. While I can throw this on for fun I’m not able, or willing, to say this is anything more than a guilty pleasure. A cotton candy action movie. Lots of crime to boot. A ton of characters with quirks doesn’t make up for lack of character development and a story that’s always rushing, trying to do good on everything it’s missing. I want to love it, I do. Walker does well with his role, as do Vera Farmiga, young Cameron Bright, among others such as the always charming Chazz Palminteri. The action is a thrill, the story’s got provocative ins and outs. There’s no coming together of all the good aspects. By the finale you’re only wondering where all the potential went.
My favourite touches…
Anzor (Karel Roden) represents the failure of the American Dream. When he talks about seeing John Wayne in The Cowboys originally it was on 8mm and they cut out the hero’s death, as it was for children. Upon coming to America, he sees the real version where Wayne’s character dies, shot, walking away. This is the perfect exemplification of that realization by an immigrant coming to the U.S., that all that idea of the American Dream is merely smoke and mirrors, it’s a fake, a movie, a plot like any other in a made up movie. It all speaks to his own situation, a Russian coming to the States, ending up as a criminal on the streets involved with guns, drugs, and everything else in that realm.
The whole structure of the story is excellent, even if the film as a whole doesn’t pay off on all the cheques it cashes via several different plot threads. For instance, the multi-layered plot involving Joey Gazelle (Paul Walker) working for the mob and having to hide the gun, the gun gets taken by Oleg (Cameron Bright) and gets used on Anzor triggering his paranoia, in turn triggering a sketchy situation for Joey with his mob pal Tommy (Johnny Messner) and his father, Boss Frankie Perello (Arthur J. Nascarella), all of that sending poor Oleg out on the run where he goes from one dangerous situation to the next, travelling between scary locations, each worse than the last. So within all that there are these nice mini-chases between set piece after set piece. Cool enough. Joey gets thrown around the city and this makes for an interesting journey through the streets of, funny enough, Prague, though the setting is more somewhere like New York or New Jersey. With nothing ultimately interesting enough to carry things completely through, we’re left with just a bunch of connected scenes that feel as if they could’ve made up two movies. There aren’t enough pieces to make a whole puzzle, only little bits that connect, but only in the sense they’ve got all the same characters involved. This is a typical mob movie that tries to be more, ending in a mashed up slop by the finish of its overly long runtime.
My biggest issue with the film is there’s no real character development in any of the characters. Sure, we do get revelations concerning our lead. Other than that it’s barely non-existent. The characters themselves are incredibly interesting. However, there’s never any time to flesh them out. We’re far too busy riding along and zipping through various landscapes, locations, different oddball settings. There’s a little bit of style, as far as the look of the film is concerned. This is neither unique enough, nor flashy enough to keep our minds distracted from the bunched up plots and the various characters tossed into the middle of them. In fact, the greatest development out of any character is saved for a feeble plot twist last in the game. Something that could’ve been used to much better effect were it given up early on. That way, more development would have come from that one point. Instead, it’s a forgettable end to a middle of the road story.
The one thing that saves this aside from those few interesting portions I mentioned is the cinematography from Jim Whitaker, whose work includes Thank You for Smoking and director Wayne Kramer’s The Cooler, as well as other titles. Whitaker makes the look of the film sort of glossy. All the same things are kept ugly, gritty, matching the dirty cop/criminal plot playing out. In that visual aesthetic, Running Scared is able to stay captivating most of the time, even if it’s lacking in fairly significant areas such as the development of characters. You can find plenty to enjoy with the weird characters, just don’t expect that to go anywhere further. The plot is decent, though again, it never gets anywhere because saving such a juicy reveal for its finale takes away potential power. Still, throw this on if you’re looking to pass the time with a few thrills, a chill tossed in for good measure. The action and the weirdness won’t make this a classic, shooting the whole movie in its foot because of excess. You’ll be able to find something to dig, not every fun movie has to be a masterpiece after all.

Electra Glide in Blue: One Motorcycle Cop’s Violent Ride to the Truth of Corruption

Electra Glide in Blue. 1973. Directed by James William Guercio. Screenplay by Robert Boris.
Starring Robert Blake, Billy Green Bush, Mitchell Ryan, Jeannine Riley, Elisha Cook Jr., Royal Dano, Peter Cetera, & Terry Kath. Guercio-Hitzig.
Not Rated. 114 minutes.

Disclaimer: certain portions of this review will contain spoilers about the film’s ending. If you’ve not yet seen this underappreciated little gem, I suggest getting yourself a copy before heading any further. You’ve been warned.

This is one unique flick. Robert Blake’s not exactly what I would call movie star material, though on occasion I’ve enjoyed his performances. Later in his career he frightened the life out of me in David Lynch’s Lost Highway. But early on he played an Arizona motorcycle cop named John Wintergreen, a short man trying to compensate, always wanting to be a bigger man than he physically can. He’s a man with something to prove. Electra Glide in Blue isn’t your typical cop crime-drama. There’s a huge mystery element involved, as John finds himself promoted to Homicide finally, his dream, after a case of suicide is debated.
But the most interesting part about this film isn’t even the solid screenplay from Robert Boris. The movie has a nice style, not exactly like all the similar pictures coming out at the end of the 1960s, early 1970s. One time feature film director James William Guercio makes this an interesting, stylish ride. The atmosphere, its look and feel, makes the story that much more interesting. All the while, we question the culture that exists in the background of the lives of police officers, their code, the way in which they tie their identity to a symbolism of law and power. Hard to believe I’d not heard of this until recently. I’m glad to have tracked this down through Amazon. Worth every penny and second. Don’t know why Guercio never directed another film, but sure glad he bothered to shoot this picture.
To Guercio!
Cop culture is on display constantly and makes us question the bravado and machismo of their profession. The whole construction of masculinity behind being a cop, that romantic ideal. First prominent moment is when John shoots a picture of Peter Fonda and Dennis Hopper from Easy Rider, using the banner poster they’re on as target practice. Y’know, shootin’ hippies. They are the anti version of what Electra Glide in Blue concerns. That movie concerned two bikers looking for freedom, the actual American Dream. This movie concerns policing the American dream, protecting it, and the concept that you can reach out and take what’s yours, with hard work, a clean conscience. But within the rigid guidelines of the law. At one point later John and another officer pull over a hippie-looking cat, trying to make sure he’s not dealing drugs, or committing a Manson-style murder, I’m sure. So it’s the American dream, under American rule, so on. Not exactly freedom. Just freedom to the law’s liking.
Before any of that the camera makes it clear that John sees being a policeman as being nearly fetish-worthy. Right at the start, we move through his routine of putting on the uniform, watching his hands do up the shirt, getting himself ready. The camera stays tight, close up. Once more, this happens after John gets his big shot at being a Homicide detective. He trades in the blues for a suit, a nice shirt, boots, of course the hat, so on. Again, this sequence mirrors the beginning. John feels as though it’s all a mirage, even if he doesn’t readily admit this fact. But it’s all a blanket identity, made up out of clothes. That and some swagger; another point of contention for a man of smaller stature. Funny enough, John gets so caught up in dressing for his new detective assignment that he actually forgets to put his pants on, then heads back inside. Easily, director Guercio and writer Boris accomplish so much in a limited frame of time, setting up Wintergreen’s character with these couple sequences paralleling one another. At the same time this likewise opens up the larger themes of the film, in examining cop culture, as well as how its fragile masculinity can often lead to tough places.
Certainly by the end, John is done in because of his idealism. This movie is the anti-idealist cop picture. It works against John that he’s so honourable. His lack of corruption and ideal for the symbolic heroism of police officers is what leads to the film’s violent finale. One that encompasses John and everything he’s about in a tragic sense. Literally, this last scene with John epitomizes the belief that no good deed goes unpunished.
This entire film looks impressive, each scene is beautiful from landscapes to the shots of the road, to just capturing Blake as this short yet intense cop – we get times that are funny in that respect where the camera crosses from one tall guy’s head to the top of John’s helmet; other times, the seriousness and the strength in Wintergreen comes out in the way the camera expresses his natural acting. Great directorial choices all around. The cinematography itself is so spectacular. Why? Because Conrad L. Hall, that’s why. Already with a bunch of excellent pictures under his belt, Hall brings the depth and scope of his thoughtful lens to this story. Many stretches of road feel as if they might go on forever, the horizon so vivid. The desert surrounding Arizona, the highways between it, the mountains; everything feels atmospheric, the colour rich. We’re even treated to a couple black-and-white shots nearer the end.
However, it’s perhaps the final moment of John Wintergreen’s patrol that catches us so sharp. The movie blood is a bit underwhelming. Aside from that this is a poignant, heavy moment. Hall slows things down to a crawl, all before John comes to a resting stop on the road, sitting up. Then we pull back along the highway from him, his body left all alone in the road, and the camera seems to recede, fading into the distance. One of the best shots I can remember in a long while, honestly. Hall is a master Director of Photography, his talents show in just about every single frame. Some of the best are the final frames, and the opening ones that show us the road (comes full circle at the end), also giving us a look at Wintergreen suiting up, structuring his idealism from the moment we first lay eyes on him.
I’ve got to say, this is a 4-star bit of work. Electra Glide in Blue (Electra Glide is a type of motorcycle highway cops often used; the in blue part is self-explanatory or should be) is one of the 1970s flicks that somehow slipped past my radar. Certainly I haven’t seen every movie there is, yet at 4,200 and counting there’s not often a real good movie I didn’t at least hear of along the way. This is one of those that fell into obscurity, except in scattered circles. Maybe part of that has to do with the fact Robert Blake really dropped from the spotlight after the murder of his wife, his trial, his acquittal, and finally his being found liable for her wrongful death, ordered to pay $30-million to the children of his wife. That could have something to do with reluctance to run out and blab about Blake as an actor, or even any of his movies. Not sure.
Regardless, Electra Glide in Blue is a fascinating little movie. It’s unexpected, fresh. Never are the characters cliche, even to the point of being weak a couple times. You just can’t get away from the look, the atmosphere, and best are the themes which writer Robert Boris explores. If you get the chance, watch this one. A ’70s diamond, buried under its stars later infamy and wedged at the box office between films like The Exorcist, Bond caper Live and Let Die, The Sting, Terrence Malick’s Badlands, Enter the Dragon, Al Pacino acting clinic Serpico, Papillon, Westworld… you get the point. Track this movie down, give it the shot. The film, Conrad L. Hall, surprisingly one-time director James William Guercio, ALL deserve that much.

A Modern-Looking Wild West in Revenge Western The Salvation

The Salvation. 2014. Directed by Kristian Levring. Screenplay by Anders Thomas Jensen & Kristian Levring.
Starring Mads Mikkelsen, Eva Green, Jeffrey Dean Morgan, Eric Cantona, Mikael Persbrandt, Douglas Henshall, Michael Raymond- James, Jonathan Pryce, Alexander Arnold, Nanna Øland Fabricius, Toke Lars Bjarke, and Sean Cameron Michael. Zentropa Entertainments/Forward Films/Spier Films/F.I.L.M.S./Det Danske Filminstitut/Danmarks Radio (DR)/Nordisk Film & TV Fond/Film i Väst/Department of Trade & Industry of South Africa/MEDIA Programme of the European Union/Nordisk Film Distribution/TrustNordisk. Rated PG. 92 minutes.

I haven’t had a chance to see Kristian Levring’s Fear Me Not, starring one of my favourite actors Ulrich Thomsen. So prior to The Salvation, I’d never experienced any of his films. Two reasons I came to this film: i) it’s a Western with Mads Mikkelsen, & ii) Anders Thomas Jensen co-wrote the screenplay with Levring; I am a huge admirer of Jensen’s films, all of which feature Mikkelsen (Flickering LightsAdam’s ApplesThe Green Butchers, & most recent Men & Chicken), as well as the fact he’s written other great movies like the fabulous and touching In a Better World.
For a long time I’ve loved Westerns. There are a flood of them out there. Although, if you search through them well enough all the cream will rise to the top. The classics will always reign on high, such as Once Upon a Time in the WestThe SearchersHigh Noon, The Man with No Name Trilogy; then we’ve got the more contemporary, now classics like UnforgivenThe PropositionTombstone, and in my mind The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford. So there are no shortage of Westerns, nor is there a lack of masterpieces in the genre. That being said, there are many typical Westerns, cliched to bits. Others, while not bad movies, just seem uninspired.
Along comes The Salvation. This film, from screenplay to actual screen, takes on the Western in familiar tones. But all the same, Levring and Jensen’s script tackles a Western revenge tale with an innovative twist, fresh eyes, and from a very emotional standpoint. Not to mention there are plenty of ways you can parallel this tale of the supposed American Dream in the minds of foreigners to the struggle many face today. This is a great film, it is beautiful to look at. Above all else, the actors each play a huge part in making the film come alive and raise the bar for the modern Western genre.
016Danish-American settler Jon Jensen (Mads Mikkelsen) has been in the Land of the Free for a while now. He and his brother Peter (Mikael Persbrandt) have learned the language, they’ve tended their own land and looked out for one another. Plus, they seem to be integrated into the community. However, things change drastically for Jon especially once his wife Marie (Nanna Øland Fabricius) and son Kresten (Toke Lars Bjarke) finally come to live there with him.
Upon their arrival, Jon takes his family by coach back to their home. Along the way, two men, Paul (Michael Raymond-James) and Voichek (Alex Arnold), accost Jon and his family. The conversation starts as only that, conversation, but the tone changes soon enough and the two strangers take Jon’s wife/boy hostage. Kicked out of the coach, he tries to run after them. Jon comes across the murdered corpse of his son. Then further down the road, he finds the coach – one man rapes his wife while the other takes watch outside.
After taking his violent revenge against the murderous rapists, Jon finds himself at odds with the local gangster Henry Delarue (Jeffrey Dean Morgan), whose brother happens to be the aforementioned Paul. When the entire town turns their back on Jon, only his brother Peter stands by his side. That is, until Delarue’s men do the unthinkable to him, as well.
Standing against the insurmountable forces of Delarue and his henchmen, Jon Jensen is forced to take arms in order to have his revenge, or die in the process.
the-salvation-text1If you’re not immediately floored by the whole opening sequence (about the first 20 minutes), then I’m not sure what would affect your sensibilities. Fact is, without showing too much director Kristian Levring creates so much suspense, a thick and undeniably nasty tension, which drew me into the film’s world so savagely it honestly took me awhile afterwards to come back to my senses. Not only is the direction great, as well as the writing between Levring and Jensen, Mads Mikkelsen – a long time favourite of mine since his turn in Nicolas Winding Refn’s Pusher & Pusher II: With Blood on My Hands and recently his work as Hannibal Lecter on NBC’s unusually amazing series – performs his character’s anger and woe so subtly it’s impossible to turn away from the power. I’m not trying to pit American v. European v. anywhere else actors here, not at all. However, there are certainly some (North) American actors who come to mind that are very exuberant, almost too much so at times. Especially when it comes to revenge styled movies, such as this one. For instance, even though I’m a Sean Penn fan (as an actor; not so much as a person), and I love his turn in the movie, Mystic River contains a pretty wild performance out of him – not at all times, though, in some scenes he is very much going heavy. Whereas in The Salvation, right out the gate, Mikkelsen delivers so much intensity and heartache without having to do anything overtly emphatic. He simply acts with all the emotion in him available, just seeping it out of his skin; the look on his face, his body language, the bunch of bullets he pumps into his family’s killer even after the guy is dead. And like I said, these are only the first 20 minutes (19 and a half if we’re getting specific). From there on in, Mikkelsen has lots more to do, and does it to near perfection.
Then we’ve also got Jeffrey Dean Morgan, whose performance as the big bad in this Western comes as a surprise to some. Not to me, though. Even while I’m not a huge fan of the Watchmen adaptation (it’s real good; just not as good as it should/could have been), Morgan impressed me as The Comedian. Also, my girlfriend watched a bit of Supernatural, and I found him pretty good in that. Then in the mediocre movie Texas Killing Fields, he was one of the only things I actually enjoyed a nice deal. But some people seem him as this good guy type. Maybe I’ve not watched enough of Morgan to feel that way. I see him as a guy with a dark side, even though I think he has good range. So here, in The Salvation, I was pleased to see him in a truly outright bad guy role. It doesn’t take long to figure him out, but not in a transparent way – you just feel how mean the dude is, right from his first appearance. It only gets more unpredictable and even more nasty once Morgan shows us how brutish his character Henry Delarue can become, to what level he’ll sink. Again, though, I have to say Delarue isn’t someone I could predict. There’s a moment, just before the half-hour mark (so much intensity so early), where you’ll understand exactly what I mean: I saw parts of it coming, but how he ends this confrontation is spectacularly harsh, and I couldn’t have imagined he was so cold. Not only is Delarue a bad, low man, he does have a tough presence, one of both physical and mental strength. It all sets the stage for an excellent showdown coming between Mikkelsen’s Jon Jensen and Morgan’s Henry Delarue.
salvation2Apart from the acting, Levring’s direction is what makes this film so special. Cinematographer Jens Schlosser provides us with lush visuals, from the wide open plains of the old West to the tighter, more personal scenes involving the characters and the well written dialogue of this screenplay. Schlosser has worked with Levring before on Fear Me Not, as well as served as Director of Photography on Amy Berg’s excellent/heartbreaking documentary Deliver Us from Evil (see it: an important piece of work). I find this one of the most visually exciting Western movies in recent times. John Hillcoat’s The Proposition is another amazing to look at Western from the last decade, though, that one has a gritty, more rough aesthetic. Regardless, I think this movie’s visual beauty has much to do with the emotional intensity and darkness of the subject matter/the performances. There’s a perfect contrast between how pretty the movie is and how devastating its plot and story are, it is a masterful bit of work from every angle.
Once more, I mention the script. So many revenge films are the same, just as Westerns often end up seeming after you’ve seen a ton. While The Salvation is typical in certain senses (rape-revenge setup), there are many ways in which it is not. For instance, like I mentioned earlier in my review, Levring doesn’t go and show everything full-on. Yes, much of the violence is pretty well spelled out in front of us. But I think the early bits, the rape of Jon’s wife, the murder of his boy, they were handled very well. I was very much expecting us to have to actually see Paul/Voichek humping Jon’s poor wife. Though, instead we get to see most of the after effects. This movie doesn’t glorify sexual violence, even if rape is at its core as a plot device/element. The effects and the revenge are the main point, that’s why everything brutal and nastily violent comes so early; literally, the first twenty minutes gets almost all of it out of the way, in terms of the injustice done to Jon’s family. We get lots of violent stuff after this point. Simply, it’s notable how Levring/Jensen go a different route than most would in this case. They still stick very much to the rape-revenge model, they’re just not relying on all its tropes and cliched moves to make things work. Furthermore, setting this is all in the context of Danish settler in America v. “born n’ bred” Americans is an interesting aspect, which you’re not always going to see except in a few other choice films of the genre. All in all, I’m amazed with the screenplay because I found myself unsure exactly of how things were heading to play out. Best part of the plot and story of The Salvation is how subversive it came across at times.
1280x720-mPeWith a big Wild West showdown near the end that can rival some of the best, The Salvation is most definitely a 5 star film. It has guts, plus brains. Even better, the directing from Kristian Levring downplays the usual focus on the rape in order to get to the revenge. Instead, he opts to show us the savagery of the revenge at the other end on top of the heightened emotions from all the characters involved. And at times you’ll find yourself wondering exactly what is about to happen next. With the stellar performance of Mads Mikkelsen in the lead role, alongside Jeffrey Dean Morgan, Eva Green and Mikael Persbrandt in awesome roles respectively, this is a Western you can’t afford to miss. It has all the greatness of any other revenge-thriller, the heart and soul of a perfect drama. Not to mention it’s one of the best Westerns of the last two decades.