So once again we have survived.

Savate

tn_savateIsaac Florentine’s third movie (after FAREWELL TERMINATOR and DESERT KICKBOXER) is a western starring Olivier Gruner as Joseph Charlegrand, a Frenchman trailing somebody through the American west. The box claims it’s a true story, but the internet disagrees.

In the grand spaghetti tradition, Charlegrand is a mysterious stranger wandering through the desert on his horse. Some cowboy assholes knock him off his horse and he drops his gun, so he busts out the kickboxing. They know all about punching, of course, but this shit blows their minds. It’s like he came down from space.

They call him “Yankee,” but it’s only because they don’t know their blue hats. His is from the French Foreign Legion. He carries with him a flyer for a tough man tournament, which we obviously know he would be good at, but it turns out he’s not in town to enter. He’s trailing another fighter that he expects to be there.

I know, it looks kinda like a gay porn cover, but this is the 2000s. Let's be tolerant.
I know, it looks kinda like a gay porn cover, but this is the 2000s. Let’s be tolerant.

Like all drifters, though, he gets wrapped up in somebody else’s business, and guilted into helping out. The somebody in this one is Ian Ziering (skinhead from NO WAY BACK) and his wife Ashley Laurence (Kirsty from HELLRAISER). The wife immediately seems to have a thing for Charlegrand, and the husband wants him to beat it, until he uses the kickboxing to fight off some thugs, and he gets invited for dinner. “You got a fancy way of doing things in France!” Ziering says when he hears that this fighting style is Savate, French boxing.

There’s an asshole businessman in town (R. Lee Ermey, uncredited even though he’s the lead villain) who’s trying to buy out everybody’s property. Ziering doesn’t want to give in, and he gets bullied on his own land. For a while Charlegrand stands by, trying to keep things peaceful. It’s realistic but kind of frustrating since we know this is an action movie and he should just get to it. This turns more humorous when it’s decided that the way to raise the money to save everybody’s land from foreclosure is to win the tough man tournament. I mean, for Ian Ziering to win the tough man tournament, after Charlegrand teaches him a few moves. I mean, why are we pretending that Charlegrand is not gonna be the one to do this? Let’s stop fooling around here, people.

It’s a simple story, well-constructed. I like how Charlegrand’s mission is revealed visually, and one piece at a time. And how his skills and main rivalry are established in a flashback. And how the existence of a worthy opponent in the area is set up early on when Ermey’s thugs mention seeing “a blond fella” fight guys like that in a bar. And what his weakness is, that will be used against him in the climax. Nice, classical action movie shit.

The blond fella turns out to be Marc Singer. At first I didn’t recognize him without the ferrets. His name is Ziegfield Von Trotta, and he wears a monocle. He takes the monocle off when fighting in the tournament, but keeps his suspenders and bowler hat. Singer makes a fun villain, although he is not all that convincing as a martial artist or a German.

That’s a weakness of the movie: Gruner is good, but alot of the times isn’t fighting other martial artists. He does get to toss some people around, including into a pile of realistic looking horse shit. Storywise the best fight is probly the one against “The Infamous Man Mountain” Bruno the Horrible, played by Scott Schwartz (a thug in FIRE DOWN BELOW and similar movies, but also one of the scary enforcer guys in the OCEAN’S trilogy). He’s a huge guy who acts like a wrestling heel. I like the whole arc of his unsportsmanlike start to the fight and the way he ends respecting Charlegrand for kicking his ass. They could be fight brothers if there was a part 2.

It’s a pretty good supporting cast too. A guy named Michael Palance (no relation?) makes a very hatable right hand man to Ermey. Donald Gibb (from BLOODSPORT – also Ogre from REVENGE OF THE NERDS) plays the town’s token Yankee. Rance Howard and James Brolin are in there too.

There are little Florentinian touches, but he hadn’t really developed his energetic style yet. Not too many fast zoom-ins, no camera moves with whooshing karate chop sound effects, no Scott Adkins. This might be partly because he’s trying to ape a spaghetti western style. The score is a straight up Morricone imitation. It works alot of the time, but it’s unfortunate when there are keyboards trying to mimic horn parts. That shit never works.

Combining martial arts and a western is a cool idea that has been done before, but not enough. This was a very natural way to do it. I don’t know if they could really get that many exotic fighters (including a capoeria guy) to this small town at the same time, but I completely believe there could be a French savateur wandering the west with a humorously unfair advantage in saloon scuffles.

Probly the most memorable part of the movie is just a little show off move: a fly is buzzing, Charlegrand does a sidekick, no more buzzing. There’s also a more demeaning demonstration of putting an apple in a guy’s mouth and kicking it so that it explodes.

Apparently this has also been called THE FIGHTER. Not the Mark Wahlberg one, the Olivier Gruner one. I don’t think it’s come out in the states, so I had to order a PAL Code 2 DVD. I wouldn’t say it’s essential viewing, but I enjoyed it. I’m glad I tracked it down.

VERN has been reviewing movies since 1999 and is the author of the books SEAGALOGY: A STUDY OF THE ASS-KICKING FILMS OF STEVEN SEAGAL, YIPPEE KI-YAY MOVIEGOER!: WRITINGS ON BRUCE WILLIS, BADASS CINEMA AND OTHER IMPORTANT TOPICS and NIKETOWN: A NOVEL. His horror-action novel WORM ON A HOOK will arrive later this year.
This entry was posted on Wednesday, April 18th, 2012 at 1:57 pm and is filed under Action, Martial Arts, Reviews, Western. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

24 Responses to “Savate”

  1. “also Ogre from REVENGE OF THE NERDS”

    NEEEEEEEEEERRRRRRRRRDS!!!

  2. Yup, this is a pretty good one. It’s the best of Florentine’s Kung Fu Western period, in my opinion, slightly edging out COLD HARVEST and way better than DESERT KICKBOXER. However, all of them lack the lo-fi personal touch of FAREWELL, TERMINATOR, Florentine’s only film set in his native Israel. It manages to tell a mostly coherent story with character arcs and twists and shootouts in just 20 minutes. Any plans to review that one, Vern?

  3. Well, don’t I feel special, having got the hook up from Mr. Majestyk & his capitalistic enterprise of hard to find VHS movies transferred to dvd. My $50 bill got me access to an Isaac Florentine joint months before even Vern saw this Isaac Florentine joint.

    You nerds can have your numb ass marathon events and your pirated shitty cell phone camera hack versions of snippets of comic book movies — I’ll cultivate my movie fandom elitism by watching obscure badass western/fight movies months before Vern even has his region-2 import.

    I enjoyed SAVATE / THE FIGHTER. I recall, like Vern sorta mentions, it’s a very visual narrative, not any excess dialogue, shows rather than tells, which is not only the mark of a good western but of a good filmatist.

  4. My favorite current DTV director made a movie with one of my favorite DTV icons and I’ve never seen it? I feel like a damn slacker. Thanks a lot for this review Vern I’m definitely going to look into this one now.

  5. Majestyk – I’d like to review it but I haven’t gotten it yet because the video store doesn’t have it and the copies I’ve seen for sale are a little pricey for a short. But it sounds like I should go for it.

  6. I remember seeing this on TV during the Beverly Hills 90200 craze and had a hard time getting past the fact that Ziering have such a big part. And Gruner is a bit too humorless, isn’t he?

  7. pegsman – have you seen NEMESIS? Gruner has some great oneliners but he fails so miserably at them since he doesn´t seem to able to speak english outside his linereadings.
    Still, NEMESIS is an awesome movie otherwise.

  8. I could have sworn that the husband and wife in this movie were actually brother and sister. I mean, instead of being husband and wife, not in addition to being husband and wife.

  9. FAREWELL, TERMINATOR is interesting, and certainly of interest to a Florentine completist, but, frankly, not worth any amount of real money. The fights aren’t going to change your world, and the movie’s action editing is clearly of its time & budget.

    I mean, I’m super glad I saw FAREWELL, TERMINATOR and glad I have it (another shoutout to our boy Mr. Majestyk and my $50 bundle purchase of ill dvds), but if I were most people, I’d be a little pissed off if I’d spent real money & time obtaining it.

    If you’re ever in a position to, like, interview Isaac Florentine, it’d be good to be able to say you’ve seen FAREWELL, TERMINATOR (awesome title, by the way), and it’s a fun 26 minute movie, but otherwise it’s skippable.

  10. Darth Irritable

    April 19th, 2012 at 4:59 am

    Huh – never realized this was a Florentine joint. Gruner was a badass in the day, like a Van Damme with talent, but sans charisma.

    He was an awesome actor though. I was amazed at his transformation from 6’1 Kickboxer in Nemesis, to 5’2 musclehead chick in Nemesis 2, a performance he also carried into Nemesis 3.

    His first flick, Angel Town was also pretty good, though it was in the “I know martial arts but I also know that no-one will pull out a gun and shoot me, even though it’s a gang war” sub-genre.

  11. Jareth Cutestory

    April 19th, 2012 at 7:18 am

    Remember when Gilbert from REVENGE OF THE NERDS slowly died from cancer on prime time television in the 1990s? That was weird.

  12. Eddie – you might be right, that would explain why she so openly fell for Charlegrand. I assumed they were husband and wife because they lived together.

  13. Unless it’s two beatiful women punching each oher, aka catfight, i fail to see the appeal of fight movies or action movies where the action is mostly about fist-fighting. I admire the skill of the actors, stunts and technicians involved, but that type of movie fails to impress me, unless they have an exotic hook to them, like THE MATRIX.

  14. By the way: Charlegrand?? Why not call him Charlemagne while they are at it? Certainly i’m not the only one who has noticed that pun? Don’t know who Charlemagne is? Go read an history book. The dude invented europe as we know today, and is the forefather of the modern world. No Charlemagne, no nothing of today.

  15. Charlemagne is also the reason why i have the name i do, Carlos. He made the name popular for centuries and centuries after his death. He was also a major badass.

  16. Knox Harrington

    April 19th, 2012 at 1:14 pm

    Was he also a J.J. Abrams fan?

  17. Asimov – it’s inspired by a real guy named Charlemont, but I assume they didn’t want to use the real name since the story is actually not true.

    And you don’t like movies about hand-to-hand fighting? No Bruce Lee? Jet Li? Jackie Chan? Donnie Yen? Tony Jaa? Scott Adkins? Marko Zaror? We talk about alot of these guys around here.

    I mean, come on. Bruce Lee!

  18. AsimovLives likes the nutrition that Coca Cola provides him, but he doesn’t care for the taste & carbonation.

    He likes women, but he prefers they stay fully clothed at all times.

    He likes the works of Caravaggio, but he wishes more of them were colorless.

    He likes driving on interstates & highways, but he doesn’t understand why some medians are decorated with flowers.

    And wouldn’t UFC be more fulfilling as a spectator sport if the middle round were a chess match instead of 5 more minutes of boring hand to hand combat?

  19. Interesting info in regard to the guy who was the inspiration for the lead character of this movie. So, indeed the name is a pun. Of course!

    Sorry, Vern, but no, handfighting movies is not my favority type of action movie by a mile. It has been so for all my life.
    When i was younger, i tended to identify with protagonists a lot, regardless if they were presented as good people or not. So, everytime they got punched, i felt the punches. I got emotional about it, so instead of seeing some cool shit, i was feelling the pains of the character always got by the endgame fight. after a while, i just disconnect from the genre. Nowdays i find fight movies to be immensely boring and and unrelatable. I just can’t connect.

    The reason i enjoy girlfights, however, is due to the inherent sexiness of hot girls fighting. Fight movies was always sexualized genre, anyway, and as an hetero, i veer for the ladies fights, if you know what i mean. Take that away, and it’s pure boredom town to me.

    As for Bruce Lee, the more i know about him, the more the guy looks like a major jerkass to me. I have litle sympathy for him. He’s a legend, sure, but not one that i admire.

  20. Mouth, actually wht i like about Coca Cola is the taste and the carbonification, while i see zero nutricious value in it. The only thing you would get from Coca Cola if you take it as food woupd be a case of diabetes, since the drnk is mostly liquid caramel and caffeine.

    If i only like clotheed wmen, then how come i love ROME and SPARTACUS so much? Epic fail there, friend. You think i’m some midwest religious prepressed protestant? i’m not even american, i’m european. a repressed european is far more liberated then a libertine american.

    “He likes driving on interstates & highways, but he doesn’t understand why some medians are decorated with flowers.” What the flying fuck is that shit? medians decorated with flowers? what kind of byzarre shit is that? is that some of that weird ass stuff that can only be found in the USA?

    If your post awas an atempt at wit, you failed… epically!

  21. Knox Harrington, no he wasn’t. Cochroaches are fans of JJ Abrams, however, since they are coprophages.

  22. Knox Harrington

    April 19th, 2012 at 4:40 pm

    Brilliant.

  23. Watching this now. Ashley Laurence is incredibly hot here.

  24. An impressive share! I’ve just forwarded this onto a colleague who has been doing
    a little homework on this. And he in fact ordered me lunch simply because I discovered it for him…
    lol. So let me reword this…. Thanks for the meal!!
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