Bullet Points: Savage Dog
Scott Adkins has been the face of action movies in the minds of many educated fans for some time now. His films like The Shepard, Assassination Games, Universal Soldier: Day of Reckoning, and The Expendables 2 gave him the incredible opportunity to work with the legendary Jean Claude Van Damme and I’m convinced that his close proximity to the man rubbed off on him. Van Damme always had more on screen charisma than actual acting talent to me and while many of Scott’s early work focused on him more for his pure martial arts skills, he’s recently been working with scripts which give him much more meat on the bone when it comes to his characters. And as we all know, a dog loves nothing more than a big meaty bone.
Synopsis: Indochina, 1959. A Wild West town controlled by the criminal class: Vietnamese warlords and European war criminals. Den-Dhin-Chan Labor Camp is run by four such dangerous men. The worst prison in the land, it is here that a European, former-champion boxer Martin Tilman (Scott Adkins) has made a name for himself fighting tournaments, on which wealthy criminals gamble in high stakes events. When Tilman is due for release, he just wants to return home, but the corrupt forces running the jail will do everything in their power to keep him locked down. When all that Tilman holds dear is taken away in a vicious act of violence, he is forced to confront the five men responsible and take his revenge.
- The Slammer: Maybe it’s just me but it really does seem like Scott Adkins plays a lot of characters in prison. The dude has a rap sheet the size of a phone book. Savage Dog introduces Adkins’ Martin Tillman already in the clink. Does it really matter who he is or why he’s in prison? Not really. The dude gets the Van Damme Lionheart treatment for the first act of the movie and I thought for sure that the rest of the film was going to go that way but soon he was released from his predicament and found something that most men have always wanted; a hot, young, Asian.
- Early Action: Savage Dog doesn’t waste much time getting to the bloody mud fights. Adkins kicks a whole lot of ass in in all of his movies but Dog might be (probably is) his most violent and brutal film to date. 1950’s Indochina isn’t exactly Disneyland so don’t expect to find the most courteous people hanging around. This ain’t no Chick-fil-A people.
- Seriously Bad Guys: Unless you get Tim Curry to play the Devil himself, the next best thing to get as your worst guy is a bunch of Nazi’s and their friends. So, although we don’t have Tim Curry hamming it up, we do have a group of goose-stepping krauts and their legion of expendable Vietnamese and European troops. The equation then turns into violent killing machine + universally hated bad guys = A MASSIVE AMOUNT OF DEATH AND DESTRUCTION!
- Love Conquers All: Sure, Scott Adkins spends a few years in a Vietnamese prison but Crom makes up for it by then gifting him the lovely and loyal Isabelle (Juju Chan). She visited the prison every week, delivering flowers to the Nazi asshole (and her birth daddy) Steiner, who treated her with the same kind of disdain that treat most rude TSA agents with. Isabelle and Martin begin to lead a storybook romance, or at least the kind of book that has you in Indochina with all that humidity and inexplicable Keith David appearances. Luckily for us, this movie doesn’t turn into a Nicolas Sparks novel and we instead get a movie where the hero is sent into a tailspin of bloodlust, spreading his vengeance out amongst the villains with the purest form of hatred.
- New Bolo: Actor Marko Zaror is quickly becoming the new Bolo Yeung. He’s gone toe to toe with Adkins before. The two beat the hell out of each other in Undisputed 3 and it was only a matter of time before two would re-ignite their rivalry South East Asia Style! Zaror plays the Spanish Nazi sympathizer Rastignac. He wears a cool hat, carries around a gigantic knife, and proclaims himself ‘The Executioner’. He certainly lives up to the moniker as he uses his massive blade to gut a couple of guys like freshly caught trout.
- Death Wish Adkins: If you piss off a man enough he’ll eventually cross that threshold of good decision making and start doing things that most men never dream of doing. Martin Tillman crosses that line pretty early and finds himself doing things that might even make Charlie Bronson uneasy. Part of his quest of destruction leads him to cross paths with legit badass Cung Le. Le plays Boon, a soldier whose loyalty lies with the Nazi bad guys but seemingly a man with some bit of honor in him. They duke it out like only two extremely awesome martial artists could but I was left with a sour taste in my mouth by the end. Whether it was the script or the direction, someone dropped the ball with Boon on this one. He should have been the honorable, duty-bound soldier instead of the guy who wanted to cash in on the bounty. Either way, an incredible fight scene.
Take a breath and enjoy these Bonus Bullet Points:
- Scott Adkins is unstoppable in the rain!
- Adkins grows a Tim Allen Santa Claus beard. He shaves it off with a knife and the next scene already has his trademark scruff going on.
- Were the filmmakers trying to make the evil Nazi Steiner look like Colonel Sanders?
- Keith David is a great narrator but some of the narration didn’t quite work for me. Maybe it was used too much.
- I would have liked a little more diversity in the fighting arenas. I was hoping for some Street Fighter style fights where Tillman would have to deal with guys on their own turf. Instead we got the same pit over and over again.
The Verdict: Savage Dog is another in a long line of really enjoyable Adkins movies. It’s easily his most violent movie and one that pits him against some really remarkable martial artists like Marko Zaror and Cung Le. If you’re at all a fan of excellent fighting movies then you’ll have no trouble eating up every bit of Savage Dog. Check it out now!