×

Dad Savage

One of the weirdest mutts in the post-Tarantino litter so far, "Dad Savage" provides a strange out-of-body experience. A post-heist drama set in England's eastern flatlands, but peopled by characters straight out of a U.S. indie cookie-cutter, this first feature by director Betsan Morris Evans is like a pic version of a stage play set in a cultural no-man's-land. Miscasting of Patrick Stewart in the lead, and a script that rarely fulfills its opening promise, make this an intriguing miss, despite stylish direction. Commercial chances look slim.

With:
Dad Savage ..... Patrick Stewart H ..... Kevin McKidd Chris ..... Helen McCrory Bob ..... Joe McFadden Vic ..... Marc Warren Sav ..... Jake Wood

One of the weirdest mutts in the post-Tarantino litter so far, “Dad Savage” provides a strange out-of-body experience. A post-heist drama set in England’s eastern flatlands, but peopled by characters straight out of a U.S. indie cookie-cutter, this first feature by director Betsan Morris Evans is like a pic version of a stage play set in a cultural no-man’s-land. Miscasting of Patrick Stewart in the lead, and a script that rarely fulfills its opening promise, make this an intriguing miss, despite stylish direction. Commercial chances look slim.

Fractured opening introduces various characters before a striking sequence of a car crashing into a deserted house and falling through the floor into a basement. Scrambling injured from the wreckage is Dad Savage (Stewart), who struggles into a chair and, holding a loaded shotgun, asks the assembled youthful company to explain themselves.

His audience comprises the nervous Bob (Joe McFadden), Bob’s mad-eyed friend Vic (Marc Warren) and Bob’s elder sister, Chris (Helen McCrory). Lying half-dead in the wreckage after a trip through the windshield is Dad’s passenger, H (Kevin McKidd). Somehow, the group tried to double-cross Dad and failed, leading to the death of Dad’s son, Sav (Jake Wood). Via numerous flashbacks, we learn how.

Dad, it turns out, is a tulip farmer who dresses like a modern cowboy, has a liking for country music and is tied up in some kind of (never specified) criminal activity. H and Sav have been working for him for some time when H brings into the fold his pals Bob and Vic. One day, H casually remarks that Dad has a stash buried nearby, and Vic, anxious to break out of his mundane existence, convinces Bob to join him in nabbing the loot.

As the movie flip-flops to and fro, we follow the tale of double-crossing and blundering the night prior, as Bob and Vic torture Sav to reveal the location of his father’s money, dig up a bag buried in the woods and phone Chris to join them at their hideaway.

First half is quite intriguing, as the characters fall into place and the plotting develops some twists. It soon becomes clear, however, that Steven Williams’ script isn’t really up to the job of creating any real drama or tension among the people bunched together in the basement.

The whole picture has a curiously abstract feel, with exteriors mostly in deserted, nonspecific settings (shot to resemble Holland more than anything) and the actors essaying roles that would have fit better in the mouths of American actors in, say, Kansas, than British thesps in cozy East Anglia.

Stewart’s role and performance is a misfire, to say the least: There’s no real menace to his Dad Savage, and he looks faintly ridiculous in a cowboy hat and denims. McCrory, a fine actress, has little to work with in her role as the sister; as the two former school friends, McFadden and Warren are OK, with the latter having his moments as the blond, borderline-psycho Vic.

Gavin Finney’s immaculately composed widescreen lensing is the undoubted star of the enterprise, in both the cramped interior of the basement and the flat vistas of England’s Fenlands. Editing by Guy Bensley is also tiptop.

Dad Savage

(DRAMA -- BRITISH)

Production: A Polygram Filmed Entertainment release (in U.K.) of a PFE presentation of a Sweet Child Films production. Produced by Gwynneth Lloyd, Robert Jones. Directed by Betsan Morris Evans. Screenplay, Steven Williams.

Crew: Camera (Technicolor prints; widescreen), Gavin Finney; editor, Guy Bensley; music, Simon Boswell; production designer, Michael Carlin; art director, Karen Wakefield; costume designer, Rachael Fleming; sound (Dolby Digital), George Richards, Paul Carr, Robert Farr; makeup and prosthetics, David Myers; stunt coordinator, Roderick P. Woodruff; assistant director, Stephen Woolfenden. Reviewed at ABC Piccadilly 2, London, June 9, 1998. Running time: 108 MIN.

With: Dad Savage ..... Patrick Stewart H ..... Kevin McKidd Chris ..... Helen McCrory Bob ..... Joe McFadden Vic ..... Marc Warren Sav ..... Jake Wood

More Film

  • FX's 'Snowfall' Panel TCA Winter Press

    John Singleton Hospitalized After Suffering Stroke

    UPDATED with statements from John Singleton’s family and FX Networks John Singleton, the Oscar nominated director and writer of “Boyz N’ the Hood,” has suffered a stroke. Sources confirm to Variety that Singleton checked himself into the hospital earlier this week after experiencing pain in his leg. The stroke has been characterized by doctors as [...]

  • 'Curse of La Llorona' Leads Slow

    'Curse of La Llorona' Leads Slow Easter Weekend at the Box Office

    New Line’s horror pic “The Curse of La Llorona” will summon a solid $25 million debut at the domestic box office, leading a quiet Easter weekend before Marvel’s “Avengers: Endgame” hits theaters on April 26. The James Wan-produced “La Llorona,” playing in 3,372 theaters, was a hit with hispanic audiences, who accounted for nearly 50% [...]

  • Jim Jarmusch in 'Carmine Street Guitars'

    Film Review: 'Carmine Street Guitars'

    “Carmine Street Guitars” is a one-of-a-kind documentary that exudes a gentle, homespun magic. It’s a no-fuss, 80-minute-long portrait of Rick Kelly, who builds and sells custom guitars out of a modest storefront on Carmine Street in New York’s Greenwich Village, and the film touches on obsessions that have been popping up, like fragrant weeds, in [...]

  • Missing Link Laika Studios

    ‘Missing Link’ Again Tops Studios’ TV Ad Spending

    In this week’s edition of the Variety Movie Commercial Tracker, powered by the TV ad measurement and attribution company iSpot.tv, Annapurna Pictures claims the top spot in spending for the second week in a row with “Missing Link.” Ads placed for the animated film had an estimated media value of $5.91 million through Sunday for [...]

  • Little Woods

    Film Review: 'Little Woods'

    So much of the recent political debate has focused on the United States’ southern border, and on the threat of illegal drugs and criminals filtering up through Mexico. But what of the north, where Americans traffic opiates and prescription pills from Canada across a border that runs nearly three times as long? “Little Woods” opens [...]

  • Beyonce's Netflix Deal Worth a Whopping

    Beyonce's Netflix Deal Worth a Whopping $60 Million (EXCLUSIVE)

    Netflix has become a destination for television visionaries like Shonda Rhimes and Ryan Murphy, with deals worth $100 million and $250 million, respectively, and top comedians like Chris Rock and Dave Chappelle ($40 million and $60 million, respectively). The streaming giant, which just announced it’s added nearly 10 million subscribers in Q1, is honing in [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content