“The Salvation” is anything but

Title: “The Salvation”

Director: Kristian Levring

Release date: May 22, 2014

Genre: Western

Country: Denmark

Rating: 2 out of 5

“The Salvation” is anything but

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By Jacob Holley-Kline

There are a lot of ways to squander a good cast. When this happens, it’s forgivable if one actor can’t shoulder the narrative weight of their cast mates. But if there’s no weight to the movie to begin with, is there really anything to waste? Enter “The Salvation,” a bloodless Western out of Denmark. It manages to waste veteran actors Mads Mikkelsen and the already underutilized Eva Green. Both of them work with what they’ve got. It’s just that they’re not given much.

It’s a sad thing, too, because it starts out well. Set in the American west, Jon (Mads Mikkelsen, “Men & Chicken”), a Danish immigrant and former soldier, exacts vengeance for the murder of his recently arrived wife and son. Among his victims is the brother of Henry Delarue (Jeffrey Dean Morgan, “Batman V. Superman: Dawn of Justice”), a vicious oil baron. With a stranglehold on Jon’s frontier town, Delarue sets out to avenge his brother.

The first red flag comes right at the beginning. A few paragraphs of text fill in Jon and his brother Peter’s (Mikael Persbrandt, “Alone in Berlin”) recent past. This is a hokey move, especially since the brothers’ backstory is brought up later regardless. Even so, the movie begins well. It races through the opening scenes. At such a pace, there must be a lot of story to cover, right? Wrong.

“The Salvation” quickly exhausts any momentum it has. Jon’s wife and kid are killed before they’re given any kind of life. The fact that they’re related to Jon is supposed to lend them importance, but their lack of character comes off as lazy. In this way, the movie is so quick to get to the action that it forgets to make any of it feel important. There are no stakes, no reason to be invested. Jon is barely a character, and his struggle is ill-defined. Because of this, his actions are alienating. There’s no nuance to how he dispenses justice. Everyone gets the same treatment, no matter their transgression. This works against viewers’ sympathies.

Beside him, Jeffrey Dean Morgan is even worse. Delarue is a villain who was once a good man. An interesting character is there. Morgan, however, doesn’t have the charisma to play him.

Above all, Eva Green is the most egregiously underused actor in the cast. As the mute Madelaine, she has no lines. Her career-defining performance as Vanessa Ives on Showtime’s “Penny Dreadful” prove that she deserves more than this.

What a disappointing and spiritless journey “The Salvation” turns out to be. It begins with promise, but wastes no time in squandering that. A weak script does the mostly talented cast no favors. The great Mads Mikkelsen and Eva Green are both shockingly boring. Even less accomplished actors, like Morgan, fall by the wayside. “The Salvation” seems to bore its actors, so why should viewers feel differently?