Currently streaming on Netflix and not for the squeamish, Danish filmmaker Kristian Levring’s The Salvation is a ferocious variation on the Death Wish formula, except set in the old, lawless west circa 1864, with old-school nods to John Ford and Sergio Leone peppered throughout the story, while still feeling resolutely modern and tack-sharp. The blood-boiling screenplay by Levring and Anders Thomas Jensen concerns a stoic family man played by Mads Mikkelsen (channeling some of that internal rage from Valhalla Rising) whose wife and son are killed by convicts; Mikkelsen then charts a course of violent revenge against the men who destroyed his family. It’s a simple story, forcefully told, with a minimum of fuss, and bracing shot of vigilante justice.
The ace supporting cast includes the gorgeous and tough Eva Green, Eric Cantona, Alex Arnold, Douglas Henshall, Jonathan Pryce, and an oily, sneering Jeffrey Dean Morgan as the ultimate baddie (he really seems to revel in playing lethal killers). Jens Schlosser’s piercing widescreen cinematography never shies away from any of the on-screen brutality and is frequently gorgeous in a potentially violent yet lyrical manner, while the South African locations convincingly doubled for the American plains. Kasper Winding’s musical score tips its hat to the work of Ennio Morricone and is never overbearing, opting for silence in key sequences. This is a thoroughly bad-ass piece of work that genre fans should be taking note of.