Saturday, 20 February 2010

Savage - Glasgow Film Theatre - 20/2/10 (GFF)

It isn't often you see something that shocks you and comforts you at the same time. Director Brendan Muldowney managed to do that with this Irish revenge thriller and in the process blasted "Savage" into my list of favourite films.

Let's deal with the comfort first.

Paul is a photographer who witnesses the horrors of contemporary life all around him. From the steps of a courtroom he manages to catch a photograph of a convicted rapist who bit his victims nose off, he watches two elderly drunks fighting on the street as people pass by without giving it a second glance, he hears the wail of police and ambulance sirens, he is confronted by feral youths and is thoroughly depressed by it all.

That's the comforting part. Comforting because I, like most of you, feel exactly the same way as Paul. The world does seem to be increasingly unpleasant and least it does to me and I share Pauls sense of hopelessness and sadness at it. Misery loves company.

Pauls world is blown apart after he is mugged by two young men. As well as being the victim of a street robbery Paul is battered, cut with a knife and, eventually, castrated by his attackers. It's a brutal piece of cinema, the fact that we don't see the most shocking aspect of the attack doesn't diminish the horror of it...a trick used to maximum effect by Haneke in "Funny Games".

Paul spirals into a deep depression, losing his sense of taste and smell, the onset of tinnitus and a sense of fear and dread that is omnipresent. The performance of lead man Darren Healy is utterly convincing here, he delivers a powerful performance that hints at great things to come from him. As Paul spins further and further out of control Healy takes us with him...we share his fear, his desire for revenge and his longing to be "normal".

Now for the shock.

The final minutes of the film are bloody, brutal and ugly as Paul takes revenge in a most awful manner. It's a scene that will stay with you for a long time and one that drew gasps from many in the audience at the GFT today. What was most shocking was that despite the horrific nature of what occurs you never stop taking Pauls side. He is clearly manic by this stage and has lost all sense of perspective but you understand why he is doing what he is and I didn't condemn him. That is perhaps the most shocking thing of all because believe me, Pauls revenge is not easy viewing and it isn't directed at those who have so wronged him.

"Savage" could sit comfortably alongside Shane Meadows "Dead Mans Shoes" and does share some common ground. What sets it apart from being just another revenge movie is the quality of Healys performance. It isn't easy to deliver a film that can still shock a modern audience but Muldowney has managed it here and I'm glad I was able to see it.

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