Paul (Darren Healy) is a rather geeky-looking freelance photographer, who is somewhat fascinated by capturing the violence of everyday life on the streets of Dublin through his lens.

In-between guiltily snapping away while people scrap in the streets at night, Paul pays visits to his elderly father - but mainly because he's in a relationship with his dad's pretty carer, Michelle (Nora-Jane Noone).

They seem happy enough, and relatively unconcerned by the violent society they exist within. That is, until one evening when Paul walks Michelle home to her flat. After dropping her off, he's accosted by two young hoodies who drag him into an alley, abuse him verbally and physically, and leave him with a knife laceration down his left cheek.

Paul is understandably knocked for six by this random act of casual brutality.

Upon leaving hospital, he's assigned with a counsellor and finds comfort forthcoming from Michelle. But neither is enough to console him - his perception of the world has been forever altered. What follows is an all-too-plausible psychological disintegration, wherein Paul withdraws while mentally refusing to cower from the world.

His inner rage is controlled to start with, tempered by his visits to a gym where he begins to work out, and subtly illustrated by his visual transformation - he loses his long locks and glasses, favouring a bovver-boy skinhead cut and dark, nondescript clothing.

Drifting further emotionally from those around him (unable to acquire an erection since his pummelling, a psychological affect that signifies his perceived loss of his manhood; it creates a wedge between him and Michelle), Paul begins working out more and asking about in his gym locker room for steroids. Meanwhile, he's become fixated on CCTV footage he's managed to obtain containing images of the kids he believed roughed him up ...

There is a sense of tragic inevitability to SAVAGE from early on, and writer-director Brendan Muldowney delivers on that threat with tremendous impact. SAVAGE is so well performed - especially by Healy, who emerged from the cloud of a manslaughter charge while filming progressed - and told in such an expertly straightforward manner that it can't help but punch you in the gonads when the finale arrives.

Getting there is just as riveting. The film looks gorgeous, boasting stylised colour schemes and lush widescreen photography. But this never overshadows the astute script and all-round great acting that really help Muldowney propel this story effortlessly despite the fact that very little in terms of explosive action occurs.

With welcome sequences of black humour peppered throughout and several moments of quite intense tension (will he/won't he explode at any given moment?), SAVAGE manages to retain an air of realism for the most part - its slow-boiling portrait of inner turmoil and external intimidation has rightfully been compared by some to TAXI DRIVER.

But this could be anywhere, this could be anyone. How would YOU cope with being violently assaulted, for example? Perhaps not the same as Paul does ... but his response is frighteningly credible all the same ...

Muldowney has been building towards helming a feature-length film for a number of years now. He's made several short films in preparation, honing his technique from 1994's debut THE BLIND LEMMINGS STORY onwards. His excellent THE TEN STEPS played at Dead By Dawn a few years back, and sticks in my mind to this day as one of the best shorts I saw at the festival.

So, I had high hopes for SAVAGE, funded by the Irish Film Board. And I'm happy to report that it's a very good film, and continues to show enormous promise for the talented director.

SAVAGE fares well on this DVD5 disc, encoded to Region 2 for PAL territories.

The film is presented uncut in a clean and sharp anamorphic 2.35:1 transfer which preserves the original aspect ratio. The stylised blue hues and smoky lighting of night scenes are rendered well in a clear and well-contrasted transfer which offers a pleasing amount of clarity and depth throughout.

Likewise, English audio is presented in two highly adept mixes - 2.0 and 5.1. The latter is a beefier, better-rounded offering, but both proffer solid accompaniment to Muldowney's considered visuals.

A static main menu page leads into a static scene-selection menu allowing access to SAVAGE via 12 chapters.

Extra features are limited but worthy. They begin with an 8-minute audience Q&A session with the affable, erudite Muldowney recorded at the Lighthouse cinema when SAVAGE screened at Dublin's Jameson Film Festival in February 2009. Audience questions appear on the screen as text, allowing the director to take up the 8-minute running time on stage with his microphone and agreeably animated manner.

Cast auditions are usually fairly redundant bonus footage but I found these clips (10 minutes in total) to be very entertaining: funny, insightful and at times embarrassing - a great watch.

The most substantial extra is undoubtedly the feature commentary track from Muldowney. Sounding more sombre here than he does on the Q&A featurette, the director nevertheless speaks fluidly about his project, taking in every aspect of the production: he elaborates on the film's very deliberate look, deviations and similarities to the original script, his cast and their characters' traits, camera set-ups, things he wished he'd done differently etc. It's a great accompaniment and a must-listen for any aspiring filmmakers.

High Fliers' DVD opens with trailers for 2:13 (which looks well-shot but derivative), TRAVELLERS (something genuinely different by the looks of things), SWEATSHOP - a really pedestrian-looking torture porn flick which nevertheless has a clutch of film festival awards to its credit, and TRIPLE DOG - teenie girls in peril. Again.

SAVAGE is a great contemporary addition to the over-populated revenge genre, and further proof that Muldowney is a talent to watch very closely indeed. It's a shame that none of his earlier short films are on the disc (check them out on YouTube if you can) but, that aside, High Fliers have done this fine film justice with a very good DVD.


Review by Stuart Willis

Released by High Fliers
Region 2 - PAL
Rated 18
Extras :
see main review