It has been a long time coming(three years to be exact), but the supernatural themed western entitled Six Gun Savior finally received its red carpet premiere at the Crest Westwood Theater in Los Angeles, California on the night of August 4, 2015. The cast and crew were on hand to receive the traditional red carpet treatment in the lobby of the movie theater surrounded by an impressive amount of press photographers and event interviewers. It was quite evident that the friendships that were made during the production of the independent western were genuinely intact as all associated with the film were quite affectionate with each other which was a welcome sight as the industry is known more for creating rivalries rather than camaraderie. There was an undeniable atmosphere of excitement among the cast and crew as they barely themselves before the premiere! The carpet was open for more than one hour of activity and even among the press the excitement was escalating as many were curious to see if the film would live up to the joy that it seemed to generate before the screening.
Six Gun Savior is set in the post Civil War era of the United States and tells the tale of Lane McCrae who exchanges his soul to the Devil to save the life of his brother, Cody. Lane strikes this rash deal after he lays dying after a gunfight with Grant Dillon who had murdered his family. Evil incarnate cannot be trusted so the Devil modifies his pact with Lane and forces him to become his bounty hunter as well as transforming his brother, Cody into a demon known as an Oni. Lane will not rest until he catches up to Grant and as he continues his trek he is helped by a faithful band of classic western figures which include the irreverent kid Kyle Hawkins, the arrow slinging American Indian beauty Muna and the striking flame from his past known as Liz Russell. Matters complicate further when it is discovered that Grant Dillon possesses the power to enslave a powerful supernatural entity known as Zathera who ultimately has her own agenda.
Adding an element of the supernatural to tales set in the old west has been used effectively by such literary authors as Stephen King(The Dark Tower), Jon R Lonsdale(Dead in the West) and filmmakers alike with such films as High Plains Drifter and Jonah Hex. Six Gun Savior was written by director, Kirk Murray and executive producer, Frank Zanca and from the first brief introductory narration in the film a rich and rather original tapestry is woven that is immediately hugs the audience like a finely tailored suit. Murray and Zanca’s story includes all of the familiar iconography that can be found in the most classic of westerns, but they have wisely chosen to utilize these templates for the purpose of creating their own wonderfully original mythology which can and should be visited once again in future films. Indeed if one would have a complaint that can be leveled against the film it is the fact that the motion picture could have had a longer running time in order for us to further explore the characters and the story.
Many films fail or succeed on the strength of four primary elements. Directing, editing, storyline and acting. Six Gun Savior has succeeded in fulfilling all of these demands. Director, Kirk Murray demonstrates that he is able to inject a fresh atmosphere into this genre and has created an amazing film that surprisingly can be viewed by all ages. It is a motion picture that celebrates family, loyalty, friendship and all the joy, responsibilities and sacrifices that is inherent in order for these noble human bonds to be genuine. Kirk Murray’s Six Gun Savior is ultimately a commentary on the price of human relationships-good or bad and how we need to effectively to decide to be protagonists in our lives lest others will create roles for us.
A film’s pace is in many ways decided by the editor who is instructed by the director. A special mention must be made of the film’s excellent pacing and ingenious cuts. Editor, Christopher Roth had the difficult task of cutting footage that was shot in a three year filming span and the mind reels from the thought of insuring that continuity is correct and scenes that have been filmed during different time intervals are made to appear whole. It is an exemplary job that has been accomplished and the film shines because of his remarkable attention to plot and detail.
The fourth element can be arguably said to be the film’s finest and that is the remarkably brilliant acting that can be found in this film. Most modestly budgeted films are many times betrayed by the rather obviously amateurish performances that have destroyed many of these types of film in the past, but thankfully the cast of Six Gun Savior turn in remarkable performances. I must begin with the ladies of the motion picture who are more than just beautiful faces. In what could have turned out to be a rather one dimensional role, Zathera is shown to be the film’s most complicated and multi-layered character and that is a testament to exemplary acting skills of Lorraine Ziff. Her character is shown to be initially sympathetic to a certain degree and Ziff’s remarkably subtle facial expressions combined with her rather physical performance create a character that we loathe, desire, sympathize and ultimately fear. It would be unwise for me to divulge more, but suffice to say I believe in a motion picture that is overflowing with fine performance, Lorraine Ziff creates a role that will leave your mouth agape with amazement.
Actresses, Michelle Rose and Maya Tremblay essay the roles of Liz Russell and Muna. Rose instills Liz Russell with an aura of resigned nobility who realizes that not even her selfless love for Lane McCrae can dissuade him from vengeance. The beautiful actress establishes Liz Russell as the true heart of the film and she represents the path that many of us fail to take only to realize that ultimately she represented the road to our salvation. Maya Tremblay’s Muna could have devolved into a stereotypical depiction of the “noble savage”, but Tremblay’s Muna exhibits a winning sense of humor, intelligence and grace which truly speaks well of Maya Tremblay’s ability to shatter any preconceived notions audiences may have based on her stunning appearance and her character’s ethnic background.
The western(supernatural or otherwise) has had a long tradition of making stars out of male actors that may not have been so before. It needs to be noted that the male actors of Six Gun Savior all demonstrate performances that should garner such a level of fame. The film’s comedy relief is provided by Matthew Ziff whom this columnist has bet will be a major A-list star at any moment. Ziff’s Kyle “Hawk” Hawkins is a man who approaches the horrors of the supernatural old west with loquaciousness coupled with irreverent wit. Matthew Ziff’s performance is an unexpected and audience winning surprise because most actors might have approached the Hawkins role similar to that of a superhero sidekick, but thankfully Ziff’s Kyle Hawkins is loyal gunslinger who would rather make you laugh than take your life. Ziff also demonstrates that he could winningly take on the role of an action hero because his role in Six Gun Savior demanded an exceptional degree of physical prowess which Matthew seemingly effortlessly accomplishes!
In a film such as Six Gun Savior, one should note that it is an ensemble cast and it might be rather difficult to decide or bestow leading actor status among so many. That being stated, it is this reviewer’s opinion that the role of the leading man in this fine motion picture belongs to that of Kaleo Griffith as the deceived and vengeful Lane McCrae. Griffith imbues a barely controlled level of rage and patience that is only tempered by a subtle degree of pathos. Kaleo Griffith’s performance gives his character a tragic nobility which elevates his Lane McCrae to that of a timeless long lost Shakespearean nobleman doomed to never truly realize his own goodness. A superlative performance and kudos to Kaleo Griffith!
If there is truly an evil character in this film(besides the Devil), then that hat was worn by Blaine Gray as Grant Dillon. It is often stated that the best roles in film belong to those who portray nefarious characters and such a case can be made for those roles in Six Gun Savior. The actor wisely chose to create a very complicated dark man whose ambition far outstrips his sense of logic and common sense. Blaine Gray’s Grant Dillon might remind audience members of cult leaders in the past such as Jim Jones, Charles Manson and others of their ilk who have an unusual ability to convince others to join his cause and do his bidding. One of those who fall under his control is that of Cody McCrae who is portrayed by Adam LeClair as a true western loner. LeClair’s role of Cody McCrae is the catalyst that sets events in motion. LeClair channels what may be a charmingly rogue side of himself into that character and creates a man who is reluctant to be either hero or a villain which adds another level of entertaining complexity to the film.
Wrapping this beautiful pearl of a motion picture within a tiffany box is the instantly memorable film music score that strikes all of the proper chords to the action on the screen. Composer, Charles-Henri Avelange creates a strikingly original score that recalls the works of Ennio Morricone crossed with the late John Barry. The score propels the action and also evokes pathos without crossing into maudlin territory. One can only hope to hear more from this composer whose name I will now be looking forward to reading in the credits of future motion pictures.
It is the task of a motion picture to entertain and also on those rare instances to leave the audiences breathless and waiting for more. Six Gun Savior achieves this and it is this reviewer’s fervent hope that this is just the beginning!