The Salvation (and five of the best non-American westerns)
Are westerns making a comeback? It certainly looks that way. Quentin Tarantino's upcoming film The Hateful Eight is due to pick up the baton where his previous outing Django Unchained left off, albeit in a snow-covered wintry setting, while the last few years have seen a plethora of films adopting the style and substance of the classic western, which range from the Tommy Lee Jones-directed The Homesman to Seth MacFarlane's far less serious A Million Ways To Die In The West.
It's not just Hollywood that's enjoying a western revival though; promising Dutch filmmaker Martin Koolhoven is currently shooting Brimstone, a western thriller starring Guy Pearce and Dakota Fanning, while another from Danish director Kristian Levring, entitled The Salvation, it's out now and avaiable to purchase here.
Levring's film stars Mads Mikkelsen as Jon Jensen, a former soldier and Danish settler in the Old West whose wife and child are kidnapped by bandits. When he takes revenge by killing his family's murderers, he angers a notorious local gang leader named Henry Delarue (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) who, it turns out, is the brother of one of the men Jon has killed.
The cowardly townspeople betray Jon and he is forced to fight them alone, his only help coming from a local mute girl named Madelaine (Eva Green), whose lack of conversational abilities are more than compensated for by her nifty skills with a shotgun.
Shot largely on location in South Africa, Levring's film boasts some stunning cinematography and features an intriguing cast that includes Jonathan Pryce as the town's treacherous undertaker, as well as Eric Cantona – yes, ex-Manchester United player Eric Cantona – who appears as a nameless character referred to only as 'The Corsican' and delivers his handful of lines with menacing aplomb. Mikkelsen is superb, Eva Green smoulders throughout and Morgan comes very close to stealing the show with his villainous antics.
You can find the trailer for The Salvation below and you can also find it in our online store using the link on the right-hand side of this page. Below we've picked five other non-American westerns that are well worth seeking out (click the pink links to find them in our online store).
We couldn't very well have a list of non-American western films without including something from the godfather of the 'spaghetti western', Sergio Leone, and while we could have picked any of the films from his 'Man With No Name' trilogy, the first of these, A Fistful Of Dollars, is still one of his best. Starring a then-unknown Clint Eastwood as the film's protagonist, this is a classic of the genre and includes an equally iconic score from Leone's composer of choice, Ennio Morricone. Eastwood is the archetypal badass in A Fistful Of Dollars and this film launched him to superstardom.
Akira Kurosawa is probably one of the most influential filmmakers of the 20th century, but you wouldn't normally associate him with westerns. However, although his seminal 1954 film Seven Samurai isn't set in the wild west and doesn't feature any cowboys, scratch the surface of this Japanese samurai epic and not only will you find all the ingredients of your typical western, aficionados of the genre may also notice that the plot for Seven Samurai was pretty much directly lifted and utilised in John Sturges' 1960 western classic The Magnificent Seven. Even 60 years after it first arrived on cinema screens, this film is still as vital and gripping as ever.
Directed by British filmmaker Terence Young, the man behind several of the early James Bond films including Dr. No and From Russia With Love, Red Sun stars Charles Bronson as Link Stuart, one of a pair of bandits who decide to rob the Japanese ambassador's wagon as he is driven across Arizona towards Washington DC, taking a valuable gold sword given to him by the Japanese emperor. When Link's partner Gotch double-crosses him and tries to kill him with the sword before escaping, Link and the ambassador put aside their differences and unite in the common cause of finding Gotch and regaining the sword, but Link also has plans of his own for his treacherous sidekick. Also starring Alain Delon, Ursula Andress and Toshiro Mifune, this is hugely underrated, but well worth a watch if westerns are your thing.
David Michôd's 2014 film puts a slightly different spin on the western, being set in the Australian outback and in the near future, where a global economic collapse has led to just the kind of lawlessness and violence that you'd expect to find on the American frontier in the late 19th century. Guy Pearce stars as a loner pursuing thieves who have stolen the only possession he has left; his car. His journey sees him forming an uneasy alliance with another drifter named Reynolds (Robert Pattinson) and his quest involves several violent altercations with an assortment of miscreants, including some dwarves and a troupe of acrobats. It's one of the oddest westerns you'll ever see outside of Alejandro Jodorowsky's El Topo, but some great performances – particularly from Pearce – make it a worthy inclusion on our list.
Our final pick is this film from Chinese director Wen Jiang, which takes all the elements of the classic western but transplants the action to 1920s China, where a small provincial town is descended upon by a notorious bandit named Zhang, who poses as the new mayor. However, one of the town's residents (Chow Yun-Fat) isn't too happy about Zhang's new reign of terror and takes matters into his own hands, leading to a series of brutal and bloody battles. There's every chance this comedy-infused adventure will have slipped under the radar of most western fans, but it's great fun and well worth a look.