Director: Randall Emmett
Genre(s): Action, Thriller
Runtime: 101 min
Starring: Dale Dickey, Jack Huston, John Malkovich, Katalina Viteri, Lindsay Pulsipher, Robert De Niro, Swen Temmel, Tyler J. Olson, Willa Fitzgerald, Winter Ave Zoli
With Bruce Willis’ retirement, everyone has been wondering what producer and, in this case, director Randall Emmett will do next. Savage Salvation provides an answer. Well, in this instance, he chose John Malkovich, who has been appearing in an increasing number of movies like The Survivalist and Rogue Hostage. Additionally, he added Robert De Niro, star of the film Raging Bull, as a co-star.
Ruby (Willa Fitzgerald, Reacher, Blood Money) and Shelby (Jack Huston, Ben Hur, Outlander) are engaged. They all have a heroin addiction, which they are attempting to overcome with the aid of Peter (John Malkovich), a respected member of the neighbourhood who also happens to be married to Ruby’s sister Darlene (Winter Ave Zoli, Sons of Anarchy, Hellboy).
Elvis (Swen Temmel, Backtrace, Bandit) persuades Ruby to relapse with devastating results just as happily ever after seems set to become a reality for the couple. Due to the lack of other options, our bereaved hero is forced to use his military experience, grab a nail gun, and make Sheriff Church (Robert De Niro) work extra hours to find the trail of deaths he leaves in his wake.
Emmet has directed two movies, including this one. Midnight in the Switchgrass, his debut novel, was a passable serial killer thriller. Here, he attempts to make a socially conscious action movie but fails miserably, working from a story by Chris Sivertson (Chris Sivertson, Marauders, Margaux) and Adam Taylor Barker. Savage Salvation’s opening 45 minutes mostly consist of chat and montages of Shelby and Ruby, with little to no action or suspense.
We do get a truly horrifying scene, though, in which Shelby brings Ruby’s body to the river where her baby nephew is getting christened. He wades into the river, hands the preacher her body, and then turns around to leave, leaving the youngster and his pals in need of years of treatment.
We have no reason to think Shelby is anything other than a junkie who works in a warehouse up to this moment. But then we learn all of a sudden what a fantastic athlete and all-around badass he is. If anything, the fact that he rides a motorcycle was supposed to suggest this, but the producers were just too damn lazy to demonstrate it to us. Despite that, it’s not like Savage Salvation’s opening act couldn’t have benefited from a few battle scenes to keep the audience interested.
Since the action scenes are so mediocre and half-hearted, it’s possible that it didn’t assist either. Shelby finds out Coyote’s identity and whereabouts with absolutely no effort (Quavo). His assault on the organization’s headquarters has the potential to be rather interesting, but Emmett spoils it by adding awful, plodding country blues music to the background. The discovery that Coyote isn’t the real boss and who the real mastermind is are too trite and obvious to be wrecked.
Malkovich appears in the movie only briefly, but he does get to deliver a dreadfully pretentious monologue toward the end. De Niro has more screen time and a little more dialogue to work with, but he is wasted in a role that adds nothing to the movie because he mostly appears after Shelby has already appeared and disappears before he suddenly needs to be in the right location at the right time.
Savage Salvation acts as though it is concerned about the opioid crisis. But in the end, it just exploits it for a few drab action sequences and a message that the issue can be resolved if we just believe in Jesus and kill the right people. It’s a solution that reflects the unsophisticated minds of those who created it.