Savage Dog (2017) [Fantasia International Film Festival 2017]

In 1959 Indochina, a legend is born.  A man fights his way out of jail and to make money until he is forced to fight for revenge.  Through this, he learns a lot about himself and what he is ready to do.

Written and directed by Jesse V. Johnson, Savage Dog is a decent fight film with a bit of story created with the purpose of setting up fights for star Scott Adkins and co-star Marko Zaror.  The story is decent enough but not exactly fascinating, something that should not bother fans of fight films as this one has a few very good fights and some side ones that are also interesting.  The dialogue is decent while the setting is interesting, but not used to its full potential.  The characters are almost all created with a purpose relating to Adkins’ character, making him the center of just about everything.  The story is not bad as it develops in ways that keep the attention and introduces fights in a manner that makes sense.

Here what the film is really about for fans of Adkins, and (to a lesser extent) fans of Zarko: the fights.  The choreography creates interest in the fights between Scott Adkins and a variety of adversaries, as well as Marko Zaror’s own adversaries, until the two ultimately face off. This varying of how the moves are used and how they are done, avoids the repetitiveness that many action or fight films fall too easily into.  Zaror is definitely one to watch here and in other films as he shows that he can hold his own, even as second fiddle to Adkins for whom this film is clearly a starring vehicle.

Scott Adkins here is given the meatier of the part parts for the fighters involved with the most fights and a character that is more than just a fighter.  This is a part with which he does decently performance-wise, but it’s definitely, unfortunately, not his best (see: “Boyka: Undisputed,” and “Green Street Hooligans” for better).  Marko Zaror brings some interest in terms of performance playing a French character and having his fair share of fights, allowing him to showcase what he can do.  As with Adkins, he’s good but it’s not his best performance (see “Redeemer” for a stronger one from Zaror).  Their fights are however quite entertaining.  An actor with a smaller part but a constant presence is Keith David as Valentine, the man who takes Adkins’ character of Martin Tillman under his wing a bit and gives him a purpose, may it be directly or indirectly.  David plays his part as he usually does, with talent and a good dose of charisma.  What sets him apart is the voice over work he does here, making him a constant presence and a storyteller for the film.  In terms of choices for a part like that, Keith David is definitely a good one.

Savage Dog has a decent story with some good performances, not the best for any of the leads, but still entertaining.  The fights are really the central points of the film with a few of them being absolutely great.  The film is built to showcase Scott Adkins and is definitely more for his fans and those of Zaror, but it’s still fun for the casual action film audience.  The fights are shot in a way that lets the audience see them and see each hit reach target, something that keeps the attention and is a great way to shoot fight films.  The setting is interesting but not used to its best potential.  The ending seems to hint at a sequel, but the film does not really feel like it needs one.

Fantasia International Film Festival ran from July 13th to August 2nd.