Savage Review: Sweeping, Overwhelming Depiction Of NZ’s Street Gangs

Here's our review for Savage starring Jake Ryan, John Tui and written & directed by Sam Kelly

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Savage Review: Sweeping, Overwhelming Depiction Of NZ’s Street Gangs

Brutal violence as a way of life is something we have got accustomed to in cinema of Martin Scorsese and Quentin Tarantino. When another director comes along with a visceral view of street violence, we are taken aback.

So, it is with New Zealander Sam Kelly’s Savage. The film lives up to its aggressive title only to an extent. Parts of the film are harrowing, others surprisingly gentle and moving as we go through various flashbacks in the protagonist Danny’s life to know him and to understand why he has turned out the way he has.

By far the most defining moment in the script comes in Danny’s childhood. At 9, we see him turn into the rebel of a family lorded over by a strict abusive Church-going father who doesn’t hesitate in using the belt on his kids. Danny ends up in a remand home where he meets Moses. They are inseparable friends and partners in crime for the rest of the film.

Savage doesn’t hesitate in prodding and poking wounds that never heal. As we see Danny and his friend Moses at different times in their lives, we realize that theirs is an extraordinary existence remarkable for its intrinsic violence and its  repudiation of the stability of domestic life.

As time flies, we see Danny in different parts of his existence, but always shrouded in violence. Director Sam Kelly has done well to cast three different actors as Danny. Somehow all three faces coalesce without violence working towards creating a single identity for the troubled traumatized Danny.

The film’s colour palate suggests a kind of pale bloodshed. The frames are filled with a furious fluidity that suggests the precariousness of lives lived at the edge, devoid of home stability and joy. The finale where Danny finally reunites with his estranged mother will break your heart. We didn’t see that coming.

Savage is filled with surprises. It projects a side of New Zealand, a side more dark than verdant, grim rather than green, which we’ve never seen before. It is a work of brutal art, showing life as mean, cruel and unforgiving. But eventually it's also said that love can find you in the most unexpected places.

Image Source: Instagram/savagemovie, youtube/madmanfilms