Savage Salvation (2022) Review
Savage Salvation answers the question everyone’s been asking, what is producer, and in this case director, Randall Emmett going to do now that his goto star Bruce Willis has retired? Well, in this case, he’s gone with John Malkovich who’s been turning up in films like Rogue Hostage and The Survivalist with an increasing frequency. And he’s given him the Raging Bull himself Robert De Niro as a co-star.
Shelby (Jack Huston, Ben Hur, Outlander) and Ruby (Willa Fitzgerald, Reacher, Blood Money) have gotten engaged. Among the things they have in common is a heroin addiction, which they’re trying to beat with the help of Peter (John Malkovich) a pillar of the community who happens to be married to Ruby’s sister Darlene (Winter Ave Zoli, Sons of Anarchy, Hellboy).
But just when happily ever after appears ready to become a reality for the couple, Elvis (Swen Temmel, Backtrace, Bandit) convinces Ruby to relapse with fatal consequences. That leaves our heartbroken hero with no choice but to call on his military training, grab a nail gun and force Sheriff Church (Robert De Niro, Righteous Kill, Taxi Driver) to work overtime following the trail of dead bodies he leaves in his wake.
This is Emmet’s second film as a director. His first, Midnight in the Switchgrass was a good enough serial killer thriller. Here, working from a script by Adam Taylor Barker and Chris Sivertson (Chris Sivertson, Marauders, Margaux) he’s trying for a socially conscious action film, and not doing nearly as good a job of it. The first forty-five minutes of Savage Salvation is long on talk and montages of Shelby and Ruby and almost nothing in the way of action or suspense.
What we do get is an incredibly cringy scene where Shelby takes Ruby’s corpse down to the river where her young nephew is being baptized. He wades into the river and gives her body to the preacher and walks off, probably leaving the boy and his friends needing therapy for years.
Up until this point, we have no reason to believe that Shelby is anything but a junkie who works in a warehouse. But suddenly we’re told what an incredible athlete and all-around badass he is. The filmmakers were too damn lazy to show us any of this, unless the fact he rides a motorcycle was supposed to imply it. Regardless of that, it’s not as if the first half of Savage Salvation couldn’t have used a fight scene or two to help keep the audience awake.
Honestly, that might not have helped either because the action scenes are so half hearted and lacklustre. It takes almost no effort for Shelby to find out the identity and whereabouts of Coyote (Quavo). His attack on the outfit’s headquarters could have been reasonably exciting, but Emmett overlays the scene with some horrible, slow-paced country blues music that ruins it. The revelation that Coyote actually isn’t the big boss and the identity of the actual mastermind is too obvious and cliche to be ruined.
Malkovich is barely in the film but he does get to deliver an embarrassingly pretentious monologue near the end. De Niro has more screen time and a bit more to work with in terms of dialogue but is wasted in a role that contributes nothing to the film as he mostly turns up after Shelby has come and gone until he suddenly needs to be in the right part of the middle of nowhere at the right time.
Savage Salvation pretends to care about the opioid epidemic. But in the end, it simply exploits it for a few dismal action scenes and a message that, if we just believe in Jesus and kill the right people, the problem can be solved. It’s a solution as simple minded as the people who wrote it.
The Avenue has released Savage Salvation theatrically in select theatres and to VOD and Digital platforms, it comes to Blu-ray on February 14th, 2023. And if you want more films like this, FilmTagger can give you some suggestions.