Main cast: Scott Adkins (Martin Tillman), Marko Zaror (Rastignac), JuJu Chan (Isabelle), Cung Le (Boon), Vladimir Kulich (Steiner), Keith David (Valentine), Charles Fathy (Amarillo), and Matthew Marsden (Harrison)
Director: Jesse V Johnson
As a genteel connoisseur of both high quality movies and men, I confess that I watch B-grade action movies with Scott Adkins for two reasons: that hot body, and that hot body in motion. Oh sure, there may be a story in there somewhere, but I am more interested in the poetry of a half-naked Mr Adkins making sweet, sweet magic with that magnificent biology of his. Unfortunately, he spends most of the time in Savage Dog wearing a freaking shirt, and I am forced to pay attention to the story. Oh god, the story.
Mr Adkins is Martin Tillman, a former boxer and a disgraced soldier who is now a prisoner of war in the Den-Dhin-Chan Labor Camp in Vietnam. It’s 1959, and the French had left, leaving behind a land now ruled by criminals and what not who have came here to play rulers over the locals. For Martin, his “boss” is Steiner, a former SS Officer who now acts like a boss overseeing men like Martin fighting one another while the audience place bets on who will make it out of the fight alive and who won’t. The camp has a regular visitor – a young woman, Isabelle, who bears flowers for Steiner. She and Martin exchange some words that are more cheesy than romantic, but I suppose it is enough for love to develop between the two of them. Mind you, JuJu Chan and Mr Adkins have zero chemistry here, but at least the romance is an excuse for one of the relatively few moments for our hero to take off his shirt. So, I guess I shouldn’t complain.
Steiner eventually paroles Martin to keep the British agent Harrison off his back – Harrison wants to take Martin back to England for trial (Martin hasn’t always been a good boy). This is where the movie morphs from a whack-a-minute flick to some bizarre effort to be dramatic, when drama and Mr Adkins don’t exist in the same context. Guess director and scriptwriter Jesse V Johnson really didn’t get the memo that any movie with Scott Adkins needs that man to be shirtless at least 75% of the time to work. At any rate, Martin becomes a bouncer at Valentine’s bar, and he learns from his new boss that Steiner is actually Isabelle’s father, and she visits him often hoping that one day he will acknowledge her existence.
Martin and Isabelle turn up the heat, but alas, Steiner isn’t going to let Martin get away from him so easily…
The middle “drama” parts of Savage Dog is easily the most boring bits, as the leading is trying to act rather than parading around shirtless, and that never leads the audience to anywhere good. Worse, Mr Adkins is paired opposite Keith David, who easily acts rings about the poor man. It is only once Steiner pulls the rug from under Martin’s feet – to put it mildly – and Martin goes on a murderous rampage does the movie get back on track, but even then, Mr Adkins has a shirt on. Oh my god, why is this? The only reason I can excuse Mr Adkins’s lamentable acting skills is because I am far too busy enjoying the scenery below his neck. Still, I appreciate the violence.
The fight scenes here are old school, by the way, which means they feature more down-to-earth punches and kicks instead of gymnastic flips and slow-motion cartoon kung fu. This is nice, and Mr Adkins never disappoints in that department. Also, even if Mr Adkins keeps his shirt on, his opponents aren’t so unkind, so there are still plenty of hard abs and perky male nipples to go around among all the carnage and gratuitous violence.
Still, the violence isn’t enough to keep this movie from being a drag. The action is crammed in the early and late parts of the movie, and everything in between is pure fast forward material. Savage Dog seems to be set up to be the first movie in a series, as it ends with Martin being enlisted to be part of some action hero gang. Well, if there is really going to be sequel, they better have him shirtless all the time. This movie is on thin ice already, being that the boredom factor ramps up dramatically the longer Mr Adkins parades around with that magnificent torso hidden away.