“The Wolves of Savin Hill is a movie that delivers
by Nav Qateel
Childhood friends Tom and Sean have a secret. This secret has kept them silent for years. Sean would eventually marry Tom’s sister Emily then move to LA, while Tom (David Cooley) remained in Boston and became a useless drunk. After Emily is found dead in the tub, and Sean (Brian Scannell) about to be indicted for her murder, Tom decides to finally settle things with Sean, once and forall.
From first-time writer-director John Beaton Hill, The Wolves of Savin Hill is a stylish thriller with a kickass soundtrack and a cast that do some solid work. Like the majority of debut movies, however, it’s not without its faults.
Sean is now an LA detective who doesn’t mind using violence. But like most dirty cops his deeds are about to catch up with him. With the pressure mounting after Emily’s sister makes an official complaint where she insists Sean was behind Emily’s death, Sean begins to crack and starts imagining things. Sean gets a tip on an easy place to rob, and using two other detectives with Tom standing nearby, the trio hold the place up. But things go wrong when Tom ends up being chased for the stickup instead of Sean, resulting in Tom being jailed.
Basically, Sean had the idea that he could use the money to buy Tom off for killing his sister, but instead, he could be in deeper trouble and the trio are worried Tom will give their names to the DA. And they know prison isn’t kind to dirty cops. Sean goes off the rails and even his fellow detectives want nothing more to do with him.
Brian Scannell gave a fantastic, nuanced performance as Sean, adding a sense of realism to The Wolves of Savin Hill. David Cooley also handled his character well, and watching him go from drunkenness to sobriety in order to face Sean, demonstrated the range Cooley has developed. Some actors can do a drunk character yet in my experience the majority of them simply can’t pull it off. Cooley played one of the most realistic drunks I’ve ever seen, and the early scene in the store where he tries to steal a bottle of liquor, was a perfect example. Most will know Cooley from voicing video games but with that kind of screen presence, he has plenty to offer as a big screen actor.
There were also some other well-known faces in smaller supporting roles playing a variety of characters. Like Michael Massee as a strange gun and art dealer. He could sell you an automatic pistol and throw in a nice painting while he’s at it, all from the trunk of his car. I think the reason I liked this scene so much was because Pink Floyd’s The Great Gig in the Sky led us into it. Watch out for the nod to Taxi Driver, after Tom buys a gun.
The faults in The Wolves of Savin Hill were easily overlooked because the overall effect created by Hill was pretty damned good. Not all of the dialogue hit its mark and Hill let the story run away from him on several occasions, and this led to the timeframe being ambiguous and confusing. For example, Tom was in prison for a day or so, yet it was made to appear like he’d done some hard time. The time between Emily’s death and Tom going to prison was also unclear. Then there was a bit of a confusing message about Catholicism, and it still remained a mystery after a second viewing. We had Sean trying to give confession, and then we see the priest attempting to see who he’d been talking to. Then there were the flashbacks of children going for their first communion. This was one of the reasons the film felt very personal, but it would’ve been nice to be let in on what Hill was trying to convey.
As well as writing and directing The Wolves of Savin Hill, John Beaton Hill was also the cinematographer, and I was suitably impressed with the end result. There was a healthy mix of almost every style imaginable, as if Hill had really done his homework, on what I can only describe as a film that felt very personal and passionately made. At one point he was even in the trunk of a car to create a nice POV shot. Hill clearly has an abundance of talent and even though he’s guilty of trying a bit too hard with his debut movie, it’s a film he can be proud of. The Wolves of Savin Hill is a movie that delivers.