THE SALVATION – A Review by John Strange

By: John ‘Doc’ Strange
Directed by: Kristian Levring
Cast: Mads Mikkelsen, Eva Green, Jeffrey Dean Morgan, Eric Cantona, Mikael Persbrandt, Douglas Henshall, Michael Raymond-James, Jonathan Pryce
MPAA Rating: R (for violence throughout)
Selig Rating: MATINEE
Runtime: 92 Min.
In 1864, at the end of the war between Denmark and Germany, John (Mads Mikkelsen) and his brother, Peter (Mikael Persbrandt), go to America to start over.  Seven years later (1871) the brothers travel to the nearest train station to meet Marie (Nanna Øland Fabricius), and his son, Kresten (Toke Lars Bjarke). 
Jon and the family head for the stage coach to move toward home while Peter stays to enjoy some of the comforts of the “big” city.  Getting aboard the coach, they meet a couple sitting in the seat across from them.  Just before the coach is scheduled to pull out, two men open the door and look at the two groups.  The two men force the other couple to exit the coach to await the next one.
The men are drinking and one (Michael Raymond-James) starts to make advances to Marie.  When Jon attempts to make the man stop, his friend draws on Jon and tells him back off.  As the two troublemakers don’t speak Danish, Jon tells Marie to bite his ear.  Jon uses the ruckus to get the draw on the men.  He tells Kresten to pick up the dropped gun.  Kresten doesn’t hear Jon’s admonition to remain out of the line of fire.   
The second man manages to grab the young man and put a knife to his throat.  With Jon’s son threatened, the first man draws two weapons and aims at both Jon and Marie.  He tells Jon to leave the coach before the count of five or he will kill Marie.  When Jon hesitates, he shoves Jon out.
Jon runs after the coach but is quickly left behind.  He walks and runs for some time before he comes across an abandoned house.  Outside the house he finds the body of his son.  After holding him for a few minutes, he takes the dead boy and again heads off again.  Eventually he finally catches up with the coach. 
Finding a man, either the driver or the shotgun rider dead, he picks up the man’s rifle and approaches the stage.  Jon fires a round which spooks the horses, revealing the second man.  This man swiftly dies with a rifle bullet to the brain. The first man stumbles out of the coach and tries to run into the woods.  Jon empties his rifle into the man who exclaims, “She’s ain’t dead! She’ll be fine!”  Jon finishes him off with a head shot as well.
With the bad guys dead, Jon takes the bodies of his wife and child home to be buried.  End of story, right?  Nope.  The first gunman is the brother of the man who is strong-arming the town, Delarue (Jeffrey Dean Morgan).  He wants revenge for the death of his brother.  He doesn’t really care who killed the stage coach folks but whoever killed his brother has to die.
This sadist tells the town sheriff (who is also the town preacher) that he has until noon to bring him the man who did the shooting or give up two from town to die in his place or he’ll kill four of his choosing.  At noon, he kills the two selected by the town and then shoots a third because he didn’t like the quality of the sacrifices provided to him.  He then doubles the amount of protection money he is coercing form the town each month.  Mayor Keane who is also the town undertaker (Jonathan Pryce) is forced to accept the change.
Jon and Peter bury their dead and prepare to leave town.  Peter goes to sell their hides while Jon goes to the Mayor to sell the land.  He is offered half what he paid for the land six years prior.  The Mayor and Jon finally agree on a price and Jon accepts the cash, placing the cash in his boot for safekeeping.
As expected, the identity of the man who killed Delarue’s brother comes to light.  Jon is captured and tortured in front of the brother’s wife, Madelaine (Eva Green).  Madelaine is an interesting character.  Her tongue was supposedly cut out during her captivity by Indians prior to her being saved by Delarue’s brother.
The mayor arrives to give Delarue the deeds he has collected.  He also asks for Jon’s boots which Delarue allows.  Jon is rescued by Peter who loses his life during the flight when he leads the bad guys away from Jon.
This film reminds me so much of the spaghetti westerns of Sergio Leone and others from the 1960’s.  The long battle between Jon an the entire troop of bad guys, the sound track, even the lighting and colorization of the film bring to mind such movies as A Fist Full of Dollars, The Good, The Bad and the Ugly, and Once Upon a Time in the West.
I love westerns.  As westerns go, this one isn’t bad.  I think that the one drawback is that audiences will have to read subtitles for the Danish spoken in places.  On the other hand, the film has several recognizable faces such as Jonathan Pryce and Mads Mikkelsen.  Yes, Mads Mikkelsen.  If you watch television, you will recognize him as the character Dr. Hannibal Lecter from the television show Hannibal.  There are a few other faces but I’ll leave you to discover them for yourself.
I hope they make more of these films.  I am for anyone who makes westerns. 
The Selig Rating Scale:
FULL PRICE – Excellent movie, well worth the price
MATINEE – Good movie
DOLLAR – OK movie
CABLE – No need to rush. Save it for a rainy day.
FREEBIE – Good that I saw it on the big screen but wish I hadn't paid for it.
COMMERCIAL TV – Commercials and cutting to the allotted time will not hurt this one.
FORGET IT! – Bad. If you see this one, do yourself a favor and keep it to yourself.
GET YOUR TORCHES – BAD! – Burn the script, the writer, the director and maybe even the actors!
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