DVD Review: Salvo

SALVO - DVD cover_optSTUDIO: Film Movement | DIRECTOR: Fabio Grassadonia, Antonio Piazza | CAST: Saleh Bakri, Sara Serraiocco, Luigi Lo Cascio, Giuditta Perriera, Mario Pupella
RELEASE DATE: 1/6/15 | PRICE: DVD $24.95
SPECS: NR | 104 min. | Foreign language crime drama | 133:1 widescreen | Dolby Digital 5.1 | Italian with English subtitles

RATINGS (out of 5 dishes): Movie  | Audio | Video | Overall


Some films aim for the sky and miss their mark by a longshot—think Kevin Costner’s wet mess of Waterworld, or, more recently, the corny campiness of Chris Nolan’s zillion-­dollar Interstellar. But there’s also the opposite kind of film, the one that’s focused on doing just one thing, but doing it well. Fabio Grassadonia and Antonio Piazza’s 2013 Salvo, a Cannes Film Festival favorite, falls in this category—a Sicilian mob movie that’s less interested in shootouts than in simply conveying a mood.

Saleh Bakr and, Sara Serraiocco in Salvo

Saleh Bakr and, Sara Serraiocco in Salvo

A young, tough mobster who barely manages one sentence per scene, Salvo (Saleh Bakri) begins the film by chasing an enemy back to the guy’s home, and killing him—only to discover his blind (and conveniently attractive) sister, Rita (Sara Serraiocco) is home, too. A typical hitman would leave no witnesses, but Salvo doesn’t kill her—he merely ties her up and hides her, eventually, in an abandoned warehouse. Why Salvo chooses to risk everything for a woman whose brother he just murdered is a question the film spends most of its time exploring, through long, moody scenes between the two leads. The upshot is that Salvo ends up resembling an existential Antonioni (L’avventura) mediation, affording you plenty of time in which to ponder.

Whether or not you’ll find this fascinating or extremely dull depends on your personal aesthetic, but Salvo‘s filmmakers clearly know what they’re doing, making sure each scene, however slowly-paced, remains relevant to the greater narrative. Somehow, they get you to care about this unsympathetic killer, and you realize that for Salvo (whose name is quite obviously linked to both the words “safe” and “save”) saving this woman is his one chance at some kind of redemption from a pointless, death­-filled existence.

Less convincing is the secondary plot of watching this blind girl miraculously regain her sight. Like everything else in the film, it’s underplayed and unexplained, so you just have to take it at face value. Rita regains her sight and, in the end, chooses to stand by her man. If this sounds ridiculous and hokey, it sort of is. But the filmmakers somehow pull it off with subtle style and grace. By that point, you’ve realized that the value of the film is so far removed from the actual plot, it doesn’t matter where the story goes, because Salvo is all about the journey itself. With Bakri and Serraiocco both delivering strong performances, the film succeeds more than it fails, making these filmmakers a pair worth keeping an eye on.


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About Memo

Memo Salazar attempts many things and accomplishes few. His big three are making films, music, and comics, but he'll throw photography, graphic design and film criticism into the ring for good measure. He'll even make you a hand-painted t-shirt if you ask nicely. You can track his activity here when there's nothing else to do at work.