I’ve mentioned before how part of my “research” for my writing in The Man Corner is watching a bunch of straight to DVD action movies. I have also mentioned how most of those movies are just awful. While searching for an action movie to watch recently, I stumbled across Scott Adkins’ most recent release, Savage Dog. A part of me got really excited because I had completely forgotten that it was even coming out, and Adkins rarely lets me down (I can’t say never because Hard Target 2 is a thing. . . . Mini review for Hard Target 2 - Don’t watch it. . . ever!). Then that excited part of me joined the rest of me in being worried, because I remembered seeing the trailer and thinking it looked like it was going to stink like a fart that squeezed out in the middle of a flying roundhouse kick. I really did not want to watch this, but I did anyways because it’s my job here and. . . well, Scott Adkins!
If you don’t know who Scott Adkins is, you need to familiarize yourself with his work and you need to do that right now. . . but maybe not right now. I mean, you should definitely finish reading this first. . . but then you need to immediately watch at least one Adkins movie (maybe even this one). Adkins is a bit like Jason Statham in that they both make movies that feel similar, and they both always play similar characters. Adkins at least stretches his acting abilities a bit further though. Instead of only playing British Badass Guy in every movie like Statham, he has also played American Badass Guy, Russian Badass Guy, and, in this one, Irish Badass Guy.
Ok, so some people might claim he doesn't have much range (They're wrong). Big deal! He is still one of my favorites, and he is undeniably one of the most reliable and consistent action stars out there. Unfortunately, he is also one of the most underappreciated action stars. If he was around in the late 80s or 90s, he would have been a huge star but, sadly, action movies aren’t what they once were. They don’t get a theatrical release unless they are big money making, CGI filled blockbusters, and Scott Adkins doesn’t do big blockbusters (with the exception of a small role in Doctor Strange and a wasted role in The Expendables 2). He’s a martial artist. He does fighting movies and old school action movies; fist fights and shootouts types of movies. You know, all the things we love. Savage Dog is a combination of all of those things.
If I’m being totally honest, the plot isn’t great. In fact, I’m pretty certain the writer/director, Jesse V Johnson, said, “You know what I like? I like fighting movies and I like revenge movies. If only there was a way to combine the two. . . “ So that’s what he did; the story simply serves as a way to merge the 2 sub-genres. The good news is it is interesting enough to keep us entertained throughout the non-action scenes.
In Savage Dog, Adkins plays a former IRA member serving a prison sentence in Indochina in 1959. While serving his sentence he is forced to fight while spectators bet on the matches. Once freed from prison, he becomes a bouncer for a bar, Roadhouse style, where he befriends the owner, Keith David (The Thing), and falls in love (not with Keith David. . . just some girl). I won’t spoil anything, but everybody knows movies with happy people are boring, so bad stuff happens and Scott Adkins gets sad and angry. Being a real man’s man, his only logical course of action is to hunt down the people responsible for making him have feelings and murder them. . . savagely. . . like a dog. . . like a savage dog.
The cast is pretty great for a movie of this type. The main bad guy, Steiner (Vladimir Kulich; he looks familiar but, trust me, you haven’t seen him in anything) is ok. He plays a decent villain but, since he doesn’t fight at all, he doesn’t really matter so I’m moving on. The two standout villains are Steiner’s two henchmen, Boon (former MMA fighter Cung Le, who starred in DRAGON EYES with Jean-Claude Van Damme) and Rastignac (Chilean martial artist Marko Zaror, who collaborated with Scott Adkins once before in UNDISPUTED III: REDEMPTION). Both of these actors bring a strong physical presence to their roles, as well as the required physical abilities and athleticism to help create some memorable fight scenes.
Aside from being a writer and director, Jesse V Johnson has also worked as a stuntman and as a stunt coordinator, and that shows in his work. His strengths as a director are in filming the action scenes. His camerawork is 100% free of any shakey cam. Instead of using camera techniques and camera movement to artificially create a feeling of energy for the action scenes, he allows the viewer to very clearly see every part of the action. His controlled camerawork, combined with the elite athleticism of the fighters, makes for some incredibly exhilarating and impressive action scenes.
There are two standout action scenes. The first is the fight between Adkins and Cung Le, a knock-down drag-out brawl in an office where no piece of furniture or glass decoration is safe from destruction. The second is the long anticipated fight between Adkins and Zaror. Adkins’ character’s boxing style of fighting (Not Adkins' typical high flying style, but still very awesome) clashes with Zaror’s knife wielding martial arts to create an interesting dynamic to the fight. This fight is easily one of the coolest and best filmed action scenes of the year!
I absolutely love this movie. Part of that may be due to my very low expectations that allowed it to catch me off guard, but mostly that’s just due to the fact that this is a really solid movie. Now, movie snobs and Leo DiCaprio lovers will point to some things in this movie and claim that they are “silly” or “stupid”. They might laugh at the completely unnecessary, and mostly expository, voiceover by Keith David, or the fact that every bad guy in the movie is a horrible shot when it comes to shooting Scott Adkins. They might scoff at the one liners or the Super Soaker spray of blood/saliva that erupts from the mouths of fighters who are being uppercut or roundhouse kicked in the face (in slow motion of course). I’m not saying those snobs can’t bring up these complaints; I’m just saying they are wrong for doing it! All of those things just add to the old school feel that the camerawork, stunt work, and the ridiculous amount of bullets helped to establish.
This movie feels exactly like the kind of movie we would see Jean-Claude Van Damme, Dolph Lundgren, or even Steven Seagal (Don’t laugh. You liked him too when he was skinny!) headline in the 90s. And in this age of CGI and spandex wearing superhero movies, this type of throwback, manly movie is exactly what I needed in my life, and I have a feeling it is exactly what you all need!. . . Or maybe you’ll side with the Leo lovers and think it’s nothing but a bunch of the same old silly action movie cliches. Either way, give it a shot and let me know what you thought in the comments, or let me know what you want to read about next. As always, thanks for reading and don’t forget to tell your friends!
RATING: 7.5 out of 10 (B+)