I can’t wait enough to tell you from the very beginning of this review that “Savate” delivers great fun and it is a must-see for every action moviegoer.
To these days, the spectacular western, directed and co-written by Isaac Florentine (“Undisputed 3”, “Boyka: Undisputed 4”, “Ninja”, “Cold Harvest”) remains one of the most popular direct to video hits of the 90’s.
In fact, its glory pleasantly surprised the director and he stated in several interviews that the success of the action-western-adventure-sports drama mash-up highly surpassed his expectations.
But, wait a minute! I can tell right away that you are already wondering what “savate” means.
Let’s not keep you in the dark.
Savate is a form of an old French martial art, combining boxing and kickboxing and it is very enjoyable to watch, especially when it is performed on the screen by the former World Kickboxing champion Olivier Gruner.
The story takes place in 1865 and revolves around the alleged true story of the world’s first ever kickboxer Joseph Charlegrand.
After one of his comrades in the French legion is murdered, Joseph travels the US in search of the murderer who happens to be a skilled martial artist. Charlegrand hopes to meet him in the ring during a fighting tournament taking place in a small village.
On his way, he accidentally gets involved in a struggle between two poor farmers (a brother and his hot sister) and a violent landlord who wants to possess their land at any price.
Following many complicated circumstances and in order to defend the poor people’s honor, Joseph Charlegrand decides to fight in a deadly martial arts competition without rules, aiming to win the prize of $500 for the farmers.
The situation gets even more intense when he finds out that his best friend’s murderer will also participate in the tournament.
Some of the most noticeable names in the cast include the action hall of Famer Olivier Gruner in the role of Joseph Charlegrand and the talented James Brolin (“Catch me if you can”,2002), playing the villainous character of the corrupted landlord Col. Jones.
The part of the hot chick went to the beautiful Ashley Laurence (“Hellraiser”) who plays the farmer’s sister, Mery Parker, who (surprise!) falls into Joseph Charlegrand.
Ian Ziering, mostly known for the ridiculous b-movie hit “Sharknado” plays Mary’s brother, the farmer Cain Parker.
The movie also benefits from the presence of Donald Gibb (“Bloodsport”) who plays a funny peasant and Marc Singer as the vicious Ziegfield von Trotta- the murderer of Joseph’s comrade.
Now let’s get to the point…
This is a Funny Action Movie because:
The first thing that makes a strong impression is the classic whiplash “punch sound”. When the characters hit each other, the noise is so strong and unnatural that it sounds like coming from a whip.
Also, when there is a mass fight, the sound is so disturbing that one might think that a building is being destroyed.
By the way, can you imagine that at the time, in order to make those punch sounds, they used to hit meat steaks against a solid surface! Unbelievable!
Another funny thing that brings one’s attention is the pathetic acting of some of the actors and their overall appearance. It is so horrible that it ends up being hilarious.
There are a few funny scenes taking place on the streets of the Wild, Wild west ( by the way, it would not be a surprise if it turns out that Will Smith took inspiration for his eponymous disco hit from “Savate”) involving Joseph Charlegrand beating up several bad guys with even worse acting using his flying kicks.
With his robotic look and ripped physique, Joseph is acting like a macho and defends the smokingly hot farmer Mary from a bunch of local criminals with voluptuous desires.
They try in vain to look as evil as possible and their hilarious appearance is enhanced by the close camera shots centering on their sparkling eyes upon the cowboy hats, all that accompanied by an intense music as a background.
The gruesome fighting competition, taking place in the center of the city gathers audience from different ages.
Even a few very old grannies are attending the event with their little grandchildren.
Apparently, there is no parental advisory at all and the kids watch how the men are brutally killing each other without significant reason.
It is a good idea to pay attention to the main villain Ziegfield Von Trotta. Marc Singer has done a truly wonderful work and his acting deserves applause.
He manages to look dumb, scary and funny all at the same time, with his towering heist and stiff fighting skills.
The final one on one fight between him and Olivier Gruner in the ring and later in the church is totally worth watching, as it is intense and very spectacular.
Sure enough, it is a bit over-acted because both fighters cry and scream of pain and fury while they desperately try to kill each other, which makes it very amusing to watch.
As a reward at the very end, the martial arts cowboy Joseph Charlegrand receives a passionate kiss from the beautiful Mary. Yeah, he looks very sexy, all in blood and sweat. Who wouldn’t kiss him?!
A kickboxer movie like no other, “Savate” is one hell of a masterpiece when it comes to direct to video releases. It is super intense and enjoyable. The action is rock solid and the atmosphere of the wild west is engaging enough to keep you at the edge of your seat.
It is like “Bloodsport” meets “Once Upon a time in the West” and that is why it is all good fun.
With a very appropriate musical background and romantic, old-fashioned cowboy atmosphere, “Savate” is one of Olivier Gruner’s greatest achievements in the B-rated action movie industry and among the most celebrated direct-to-video action flicks of the 90’s.
What is your favorite Olivier Gruner movie? Do you think that it is a good idea to mix up western and martial arts?
Leave me a comment below and I’ll be more than happy to hear from you.
IMDB rating: 5.3/10
Funny Action Movies rating: 7.7/10