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A Mad Max-esque post apocalyptic world provides the backdrop for a brutal, futuristic game resembling football. Rutger Hauer plays a disgraced former star leading a rag tag group of "Juggers" to one of the remaining Nine Cities for glory and redemption Written by
Sand, scars and blood just about sums up Salute of the Jugger (the title for the full 104 minute version, not the 90 minute US "Blood of Heroes" cut). Salute is an unapologetically brutal story, perfectly cast, well played and very competently filmed. All the cast acquit themselves well; Hauer is suitably grizzled, and Chen manages (believably) to be cute, scary, vulnerable and savage all at once.
There's very little plot or dialogue in Salute, but this isn't necessarily a bad thing. The showcase here is the heart pounding Jugger matches, which are genuinely gripping and gritty action sequences, shown to a sparse percussive soundtrack that only very occasionally veers slightly too close to smug Americana triumphalism.
Top marks go to the stunt, makeup and continuity people. There are no Jackie Channish balletic combats here - faces smash open under brutal blows, and the face remains smashed in the following scenes. The wounds heal slowly over time, but the grimly realistic scars of the Juggers remain consistent throughout. Continuity is often underemphasised, as you only miss it when it isn't there, but there are no slip ups in Jugger despite its low budget.
One interesting point is the change of emphasis in the 90 minute cut. The title changes to "Blood of Heroes", and the message of "Salute" that there *are* no heroes, only winners who sleep in silk sheets, is diluted by ending prematurely on a victory high. In the full Salute, there's a frank message that for some, beyond "happily after after" lies more sand and scars and blood. If you get the choice, the 104 minute "Salute" is a more complete and consistent film.
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