I just watched an entertaining but completely forgettable Western called The Salvation. I decided to blog about it right away, while I still remember a bit about it.
I wanted to see this movie for two reasons: it is an ultra-violent Western, the only genre of film I give complete permission to be brain-dead, and it stars my boyfriend, Mads Mikkelsen.
Now, you might be saying to yourself, “Wait…isn’t that ugly motherfucker some sort of European?”
You’d be correct! Mr. Mikkelsen is, in fact, Danish…the country where they make the delicious Christmas cookies and my favorite client, Fortinbras. All sorts of good things come out of Denmark.
|Courtesy of our Danish friends|
A Danish film film about a Danish cowboy. American audiences might be skeptical, but I ask you: Why the hell not…? The Western is one of our cinematic gifts to the world. Can you blame other people for loving it and wanting to make it their own? Of course not!
We can’t even rightly call it cultural appropriation when other countries borrow it, because the Western is essentially a fantasy genre. Most Western books and movies bear only the faintest resemblance to American frontier life post-Civil War to 1900. The Western has never been about historical accuracy. It was fantasy when James Fenimore Cooper wrote The Last of the Mohicans and it’s fantasy today. It was fantasy when the real thing was actually happening, which is very interesting. Edward S. Curtis and Buffalo Bill were selling a fiction. They had the real American West, and they sold the fantasy Western. Crazy, right? So you have a photographer who travels the West and makes it look like this:
|You know it didn’t REALLY look like this|
Now, you can argue–persuasively, even–that the fantasy Western was propaganda. The people in the photographs above would probably have a lot to say about that. Yes, it’s propaganda, but it’s more than that, which is what accounts for its universal popularity. The Western is a sort of Rorschach test. What does the American West symbolize? A fresh start. Opportunity. Freedom from political oppression and the hypocrisy of society. A chance to remake one’s image. Paradoxically, spirituality in nature and triumph over it. Equality, if you’re white. Hope.
America owns the West, but the Western belongs to everyone.
Which brings us back to the Danish cowboy!
Mads Mikkelsen plays a Danish soldier who moves out West with his brother to (what else?) make a better life for himself after fighting the Germans (Austrians and Prussians).
After seven years, his wife and son make the journey to join him. Alas, they meet a violent and untimely end. Mikkelsen and his brother spend the next 70 minutes getting sweet, sweet revenge. The #1 Bad Guy has a black hat, black boots, and a black mustache. In addition to being an enthusiastic murderer, he extorts money from the decent townfolk and has sex with his sister-in-law. 100% scumbag, no ambiguity at all. There is a jailbreak, a rooftop shootout, a sheriff with a brass star on his shirt, and a rich guy in fancy clothes from Back East who wants to buy up the town. The plot contained zero surprises.
The action was fast and I was not bored. Good music. The town looked like a fantasy of a western town. Mikkelsen delivers his 20 lines of dialogue convincingly. So does the Swede who plays his brother. Good job, guys.
I was hoping for a flashback to the Second Schleswig War, but it didn’t happen.
This movie is exactly what you’d expect. I give it a B+.