If I’m any sort of a critic, I’ll claim to be one of culture rather than film. The two are not widely separated—yet perhaps too widely, for all that, when irredeemable garbage like the “Danish Western” (you read that right) inscrutably titled The Salvation can be released upon the world. As has become my wont on Netflix, I fast-forwarded through huge sections after witnessing the sick beginning, pausing only to take in two minutes here and there. I had to see just where the thing was going, you know: I simply couldn’t believe that the only direction was down. Boy, was I ever wrong!
Here’s a Wikipedia summation of about two-thirds of this sagebrush saloperie.
The family [a rancher reunited after years with his wife and young son from Denmark] boards a stagecoach bound for their small residence while Peter [the rancher’s sidekick or foreman or… who cares?] stays behind. Their coach is also boarded by two recently released criminals, Paul and Lester. Following a tense struggle, the two criminals throw Jon out of the moving coach after which they rape and kill Jon’s wife. They also kill his son and the stagecoach drivers.
With great effort, Jon catches up to the coach to find his family murdered. Enraged, he kills the two convicts.
Unbeknownst to Jon, Paul is the brother of Henry Delarue, a notorious gang leader and land baron. Upon hearing the news, Delarue kills three innocent citizens of Black Creek, the town that reports the deaths to him. He also forces the townspeople to cooperate and find his brother’s killer.
After burying his wife and son, Jon decides to leave the town with Peter and sells his land to Keane, Black Creek’s mayor and undertaker. Before they can leave, Jon and Peter are captured by the town Sheriff, Mallick. As Jon sits in his cell, Mallick tells him that his death will buy the town more time while he tries to alert higher authorities of Delarue’s actions. Meanwhile, it is revealed that Delarue is working with the Standard Atlantic Oil Company and with the help of Mayor Keane, had been acquiring Black Creek and its surrounding land, which was close to an untapped oil reserve. Delarue’s now widowed sister-in-law, Madelaine, acts as his accountant and suffers sexual and physical abuse from him.
I won’t torment you any longer. Frankly, what little I could make out of the remaining “plot” was merely more of the same ghoulish blood-fantasy. I’d utterly missed all the crapola about Standard Oil. Stagecoaches, long-barreled revolvers… and Standard Oil? Was the CIA also involved, perchance?
This all pisses me off highly, for several reasons. First, don’t pretend that you’re making a Western if you can’t play by the chronological rules. Colts are not AK-47’s. Stagecoach drivers don’t rumble along obliviously while their passengers rape and murder just under the floorboards. Frontier towns whose every occupant is equipped with a Winchester do not quake in fear as a half-dozen psychopaths put bullets through the skulls of old women; and as for that, the number of criminals who raped men’s wives, slit their children’s throats, and executed their grandmothers was pretty close to zero in my considerable reading of Western history and first-hand accounts. Precisely because practically everybody carried a gun, a Charles Manson who sought forcible entry into your house would be sure to meet with a dozen bullets from a dozen directions. I only wish the Manson-in-becoming sixth-grader who composed this script had met with an analogous reception from parents with switches and yardsticks.
Hollywood, of course, doesn’t “get” the fine points of gun ownership. Europeans, a fortiori, can’t begin to understand the concept of effective self-defense (which is why they’re waiting for us, perhaps, to chase Putin out of Ukraine). If this moronic video screed were only aimed at the firearm… but my discovering the role of Standard Oil in the sadistic fantasy is a scintillating example of something I’ve written about very recently. The European intelligentsia, like other cultists of the political Left, knows no bounds—neither those of shame nor of common sense—in the matter of projecting every perversion and atrocity a deranged or over-medicated mind can imagine onto their ideological adversaries. “Americans?” mulls Danish Filmmaker. “Think big business. Think brutal, wanton murder. Think rape and infanticide.” And the only white hat in the satanic comic strip is a quiet émigré from Denmark!
Jeez, why did we bother helping you guys in 1941? (Oooh, that’s right–I forgot you were Hitler’s ally.) And you won’t raise a peep against radical Islam! Who is it nowadays, by the way, that’s requiring young children in public school to finger their pudenda and play sex games before their voices change? Remind me again… who is the pervert here? On that basis, at least, Islamic fundamentalists and American Christians could agree to throw the EU off the stagecoach.
Yet the “critical response”, according to Wikipedia, was quite positive in general. Referring to a Web nexus of professional critics, the oracle informs us,
The site’s critical consensus reads, “It’s all but impossible to add anything new or fresh to the traditional Western, but – thanks in no small part to Mads Mikkelson’s [sic] performance – The Salvation comes close.” On Metacritic the film has a score of 64 out of a 100 based on 19 critics, signifying “generally favorable” reviews.
Look, I get t that historical films are always ultimately about the here and now. Yet at the same time, you accept certain realistic limitations in selecting a historical period as your context. Arthurian knights must not greet each other with a hearty, “What up, dawg?” Al Capone shouldn’t be storing the bodies of victims in a freezer for his dinner. Nelson’s Victory didn’t fire torpedoes.
From what I’m seeing lately, the film industry throughout the decadent West (and I mean Europe and the U.S.) has developed an obsession with thrusting psychotic attributes onto exotically sick villains said to belong to the past and then having sensitive cosmopolitan types who sport “I’m with her” stickers on their chariot’s bumper or horse’s butt barge in like avenging angels. This kind of scenario abuses the past in ways that I consider unforgivable and despicable. At the same time, it sheds no light whatever on the human condition in any age, because its Manichaean moral polarities are childish—“pre-school” childish. What sickens me most is that I can’t even picture myself, as a creator, imposing some of these obscene, twisted behaviors on history’s true villains. If I were making a film about Stalin’s unleashing his troops like ravening wolves upon a fallen Berlin now inhabited by no one but women and children, I would still paint some of my lupine characters with a tortured conscience. After all, in the depths of their depravity, something stubbornly human must have sparked within at least a few of these butchers.
Nope—that’s not how our political adversaries see us. If we’re not slavering hellhounds, then we’re wimpy pseudo-pious hypocrites. (Did you catch the irony of the mayor-preacher’s being a pimp for Standard Oil?) And they use a grotesque caricature of the American West to give a location to their Hell. My God, what snotty, overweening arrogance!