Review: Savage Dog (Fantasia 2017)

Scott Adkins is Martin Tillman, an Irish prizefighter and prisoner in 1959 Indochina, a land clad with an array of criminals and danger of all kinds. While in prison, Martin fights in tournaments being gambled on by these criminals. When he is due for release, the four tyrants who run the jail want to keep him under their thumb and fighting; but Martin is not having it. When the “dog” turns “savage,” heads are going to roll.

Savage Dog is straight-up fun. Although ridden with cliched tropes expected in the fighting B-movie subgenre of the 80s and 90s (Bloodsport, Best of the Best and films of sort), Savage Dog is entertaining enough and well made to be a better than average action-packed revenge film. Written and directed by Jesse V. Johnson, Savage Dog has gore-geous special effects, a solid cast and swift pacing.

The supporting cast next to the on-point lead, Scott Adkins, adds to the charm of Savage Dog. Marko Zaror as the vile Rastignac the Enforcer and Vladimir Kulich as the warden, Steiner, were standouts as two of the four main antagonists. Their presence was looming throughout the film, as the actors honed in and brought these characters to life. I really disliked them, which is a success when creating a heel. Also on board for the flick is the legend, Keith David. I love Keith David; from Carpenter classics like The Thing and They Live, to his voiceovers in animated features and television. In Savage Dog he does a fine job portraying Valentine, a bar owner and the narrator of the exposition. Others on the cast do a sufficient job (Cung Le as Boon, Charles Fathy as Amarillo), while others have forced scenes at times (Juju Chan as Isabelle and Sheena Chou as Samsip-Sam). Regardless, they all come together and put on a successful performance.

The action sequences looked tough, bad-ass and were presented fluidly. The fighting scenes were choreographed with precision and come off as believable. The explosions and gunplay were reminiscent of 80s Missing in Action-esque, and added to the medium. The best part of the special effects was the gore factor, and boosts the overall rating. All the hounds out there will be excited with several scenes of bloodshed.

All in all, Jesse V. Johnson’a Savage Dog is certainly a standout in the genre. The script and direction, in addition to his skills and knowledge from being on the stunt side of filmmaking, make this movie have a specific thumbprint. I’ve never seen any other of his films, but I’m interested in seeing what else is in his repertoire and what will come in the future. Now playing at the Fantasia International Film Festival in Montreal, be on the lookout for this to be distributed soon.

3.5/5 Zombie Heads

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