Tuesday, 24 December 2013

Savage (2009) Brendan Muldowney

I approach revenge cinema a little differently to my usual genre appreciation, being fundamentally opposed, even disturbed by the notion, as a viewer I find myself in a position of opposition. Not predisposition not to like revenge films at all mind, just more critical, more interested in the inner workings than surface stories. Savage thus is a film of some interest to me despite not being wholly successful, as it does quite admirab;y try to make an interesting point out of a decidedly conventional scenario. The story of Paul, a photographer of Dublin's seamy underbelly who gets brutally attacked, his descent and ultimate violence, it falls into the serious category of revenge film rather than that of redemptive myth, here revenge is not a means to restore order but atavistic hunger beyond justice. Territory travelled so many, many times that the challenge of any individual film is virtually desperate, to wrest some kind of insight, any worthy insight, out of the sheerly obvious. Savage actually does quite well, rather than a matter simply of descent into madness the focus is on the folly of masculinity in extremis, so focused on ultimately meaningless signifiers like hair, muscles and genitals, that the really important things, those that make someone not just striving towards Man but simply man, strong in heart mind as well as body, good and fulfilled. The opening scene neatly foreshadows this point, as Paul pursues sordid little detail for a photostory while missing wider events right around him, then while the film practically bellows its point from scene to scene the focus remains agreeably clear. A strong performance by one Darren Healy as Paul keeps things compelling rather than eye rolling, beginning a weak man with a measure of real underlying goodness, his halting progress through fear and anger, goodness seeping away as blindness enfolds, is handled with skill and actually slightly unsettling by the end. Decent shooting helps too, painting a world merely bleak during days, at night a restless hopeless underworld crawling with violence sometimes not even out of range of streetlights.

So plenty of good here, unfortunately this only has a real punch to it in the final ten minutes. By some combination of low budget and artistic intent the key early attack is much shied away from, minor face carving and POV shots of crashing feet and fists being about the extent of it. It's mean but it really feels too restrained, too coy for a film of serious, relevant intentions. And in the final block, fantasy taking over as confrontation draws imminent, things simply aren't stressful or twisted enough, there's some psychological suspense but not so much dramatic. The climactic nastiness is reasonably gruelling, but more and earlier really would have improved the overall effect. Still, this is noble stuff, an addition to a stuffed to bursting genre that might not have much worth beyond serious fans but is still worthy of not being forgotten. So don't run, but check it out I guess...

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