A solid pairing for a bargain
Double feature Blu-ray releases such as this Close Range / Savage Dog release from MVD are a dime a dozen. Since the earliest days of digital video discs we’ve been getting pairings like these. I’m here to say this is a particularly enjoyable one for action fans and/or Scott Adkins devotees. Neither Close Range or Savage Dog are ultimately top tier Adkins films. They’re not even the best films Adkins has made with either of their respective directors, Isaac Florentine (Close Range), or Jesse V. Johnson (Savage Dog). But what you get here are a couple of REAL solid, highly palatable slices of rip roaring action from our boy Adkins, and you get a film each from the two directors whom Adkins has most consistently partnered with to great result. So while neither film is quite Adkins in god mode, I could see myself revisiting these with greater frequency than some other, perhaps better, films, and owning them on physical media is an awesome addition to my library which had thus far lacked both titles.
Close Range (2015)
This right here is Adkins & Florentine doing Jack Reacher, and let me tell you: I’m here for it. Close Range is some real meat and potatoes action that clocks in at a glorious 80 minutes, goes down easy, and leaves you interested in more tales of Adkins’ soldier-turned-outlaw Colt MacReady. With a plot eerily similar to the later 2019 film Rambo: Last Blood, MacReady has already murdered dozens of cartel men south of the border in order to rescue his niece who had been kidnapped before the opening credits have even rolled. It’s a pretty flawless extraction that may have ended there except that a USB drive MacGuffin is attached to the keys that MacReady brings with him back to the USA, so within mere hours of the opening rescue, corrupt cops and dozens of cartel men are headed to MacReady’s sister’s ranch where they’ll have to make a last stand. It’s close to a single location kind of movie, with ample opportunities for gun battles, martial arts, and siege-like set pieces all taking place over roughly a single day or two. In this respect Close Range is slight, but honestly, this is exactly what we want from an Adkins/Florentine joint. It’s fast, it’s mean, it’s cool. Adkins repeatedly does things on screen no mere mortal should be able to do, Florentine captures it with grace, and writers Chad Law and Shane Dax Taylor get in and get out with just enough action and mystery to make you want more MacReady. You can find better work from everyone involved, but Close Range scratches all the itches of an action fanatic and remains highly watchable.
Savage Dog (2017)
Feeling more like a throwback than Close Range, Savage Dog is actually a period piece set in 1959 Indochina (what today would be roughly Vietnam and Cambodia). It’s this lawless time when ne’er do wells from across the globe have descended on this place to make a buck without any governments getting in their way. Boasting a much bigger cast of “names” than Close Range, Savage Dog is narrated by Keith David’s Valentine. Valentine is somewhat of a father figure to Adkins’ mad Irishman Martin Tillman. Juju Chan is the romantic lead here (she would go on to play a wide array of badasses in a whole bunch of action films), and Marko Zaror and Cung Le even show up as worthy adversaries standing in the way of Tillman’s vengeance when tragedy befalls Valentine and Chan’s Isabelle. Savage Dog is a mean movie, as its title implies. But mean in that satisfying, cinematic revenge kind of way. Tillman is a pit fighting scrapper who cobbles together a bit of happiness and forged family with Valentine and Isabelle, only to become a whispered about legend of vengeance when their idyllic life is shattered. Revenge is perhaps one of action cinema’s greatest tropes, and what’s key here is that Johnson does make his film stand out from the pack. It’s meaner, bloodier, and more visceral than many revenge films. And Johnson is highly interested in telling tales of tough guys and getting into thematic meat of how brutal a life of vengeance can be. As both writer and director, Savage Dog becomes very much a product of Jesse V. Johnson, and as such it’s pretty good stuff. The period setting gives a little historical flavor and switches things up a bit for Adkins. The cast and jungle setting offer a kind of Cannon Films throwback vibe. And in the end Tillman becomes so feral with revenge that he more or less starts eating folks… so it lives up to its name and kicks a whole lot of ass, even if it’s a little harder to swallow… ahem… than Close Range.
I’m thrilled to own these two titles in HD and feel like they’re a pretty great little duo of really solid Scott Adkins pairings with two of his very strongest director collaborators. Savage Dog even has a little bonus content. There’s nothing singular about this release except that both films are very satisfying and in an era where fewer and fewer of Adkins’ films are getting HD physical releases in the US. Both films had gotten previous Blu-ray releases, but I’ll treasure this combo pack and recommend Adkins fans snatch it up while they can if they don’t already own the previous Blu-ray releases.
And I’m Out.
Close Range & Savage Dog Action Double Feature hit Blu-ray July 20, 2021 from MVD Marquee Collection