The Salvation, a new Western flick starring Danish leading man Mads Mikkelson (he of the bleeding eye in Casino Royale) opens this weekend exclusively at the Capitol Theatre. Westerns — good ones anyway — are hard to come by these days, so Cleveland Cinemas pounced on the opportunity to screen The Salvation in conjunction with "one of the greatest Westerns of all time," according to Cleveland Cinemas' marketing director Dave Huffman.
Once Upon a Time in the West, the 1968 Sergio Leone classic, will screen Thursday at 7 p.m. Tickets are $5 for the genre masterpiece starring Claudia Cardinale as a widowed damsel in distress who is aided by a mysterious, harmonica-playing stranger (Charles Bronson) and a notorious desperado (Jason Robards) who protect her from a ruthless killer (Henry Fonda, in a definitive role). In true Cleveland Cinemas fashion, if you bring a ticket stub from Once Upon a Time in the West to a screening of Salvation for the duration of its run, you'll receive a free 32-ounce popcorn.
In The Salvation, Mikkelson is Jon, a former Danish soldier who has settled, with his brother, on the American frontier of 1871. When his wife and son arrive from Denmark to join him, they are savagely murdered. Jon exacts immediate revenge, but learns that one of the men he kills is the brother of a villainous outlaw named Delarue (Jeffrey Dean Morgan), who has been extorting and terrorizing the nearest town with his gang at the behest of oil-prospecting tycoons.
Jon finds himself at the mercy of the timid townsfolk (an underhanded mayor, a pious sheriff), who believe that Delarue will ease up if his brother's murderer is handed over. But violence prevails, and Jon must take matters into his own hands, triangulating, meanwhile, the loyalties of Delarue's tongueless mistress (Eva Green).
Mikkelsen is certainly a somber-faced Dane — you can't blame a man who's lost everything for looking grim — but as the film's protagonist, he cues the overall tenor, which is downright cheerless. All the outlaw rapes, the point-blank head shots, the sober exchange of property deeds, create an atmosphere (which probably hews to history) of bleakness and barbarism. And though there are moments of suspense and one or two satisfying confrontations, when you couple the despair with the modest production budget, the occasionally disruptive use of CGI for stylized landscape shots, and a script without much dialogue, you've got a recipe for a Western that feels neither particularly classic nor particularly modern.