While ‘Savage Salvation’ is a revenge action film, it’s also a love story. Almost half of its runtime is devoted to exploring the relationship between Shelby John (Jack Huston) and Ruby Red (Willa Fitzgerald), two troubled individuals struggling with their opioid addiction before Ruby Red’s eventual death and Shelby John’s pursuit of revenge.
So, while vengeance is an important motif in the film, it’s not the only one. ‘Savage Salvation’ is also a tragic love story. The relationship between Shelby John and Ruby Red has great potential, but it ends abruptly, setting the former on the path of violence and destruction. Here is everything you need to know about the ending of ‘Savage Salvation.’ SPOILERS AHEAD.
Savage Salvation Plot Synopsis
We are never really given the exact reasons why Shelby John and Ruby Red have sought refuge in opioid addiction. At the start of the film, they are already addicts, struggling with the constant presence of their addiction in their lives.
The film opens with the execution-style murder of a man whose name we later learn is Elvis. The story then shifts a month back. The local Sheriff, Mike Church (Robert De Niro), visits the scene where the most recent victim of opioid addiction has overdosed. He laments what his community has become in recent years and how things have changed for the worse since he was younger.
The scene shifts, and we are introduced to Shelby John, heading home on his motorcycle. On his way, he acquires a plastic ring from a claw machine. Upon reaching home, he proposes to Ruby red, promising her he will get her one with a diamond in the future. A jubilant Ruby Red waves off his discomfort, claiming she is perfectly happy with what she has gotten.
However, their celebration soon devolves into drug use, as Shelby John and Ruby Red lose themselves in the sensation of their opioids. It is revealed that both have been using drugs for a while and find themselves trapped in that life. When Ruby Red regains consciousness, she resolves to stop using drugs altogether. As they are now engaged, she ardently believes they need to change before they are ready to turn a new page in their lives. Ruby Red convinces Shelby John to join her, though he warns her that the next few days will be a nightmare.
Shelby John is proven right, as things get worse for them before they get better. But throughout the process, they support each other, eventually managing to get over their addiction, ushering in positive changes.
Ruby Red starts volunteering at the local church and gets a job at a thrift store, while Shelby John tries to save up enough money to get a diamond ring for his intended.
At first, things go perfectly for the two of them, But then Elvis realizes that Shelby John has stopped buying his drugs and approaches him. Realizing what has transpired, he lures Ruby Red by convincing her that Shelby John has broken his promise to her and has started using again, prompting Ruby Red to inject herself with smack and die of an overdose.
Holding Elvis and those who supplied drugs to him responsible, Shelby John systematically targets the organization, taking out its leaders one by one until he reaches the very top. Meanwhile, Sheriff Church, who has lost his son to drugs, is sympathetic toward Shelby John and hopes to catch him before he goes too far.
Savage Salvation Ending: Who Is Behind the Drug Operation?
Before Elvis’ reappearance in their lives, Shelby John and Ruby Red were doing well. They attend Ruby Red’s nephew’s birthday party, where her family welcomes Shelby John in. Ruby Red’s brother-in-law, Peter (John Malkovich), even offers Shelby John a job. While Ruby Red’s mother seems initially skeptical, she doesn’t actively oppose her daughter’s relationship with Shelby John.
Shelby John and Ruby Red’s hope for a life together comes crashing down after the latter’s death. Although Ruby Red died after overdosing on smack, she would have never taken it if Elvis hadn’t lied to her. Shortly after Ruby Red’s death, John ambushes Elvis in his own home. He forces the man’s wife and children to leave before torturing him for the name of his supplier. Elvis initially tries to stay silent, but his defiance doesn’t last long as Shelby John shoots him with a nail gun. Elvis reveals that he gets his supply from a man named Darius before Shelby John puts several nails through his head.
In contrast, Darius turns out to be very accommodating. The man quickly realizes that nothing short of the truth will get him out of his current predicament alive when he encounters Shelby John. His partner is not as bright and gets both his kneecaps shot.
Darius tells Shelby John that he receives his drugs from a man named the Coyote, prompting the latter to attack the Coyote’s lair and kill all of the Coyote’s men.
When Shelby John confronts the Coyote, the Sheriff arrives. Church’s late son, Maken, and Shelby John both played for their high school team, so Church sees Shelby John as his own son and implores him to surrender. And it seems he is doing just that when one of the Coyote’s associates shoots at them and severely injures Church’s partner. Shelby John kills the said associate, while Church kills the Coyote.
Before the Coyote’s death, he calls someone. When Shelby John takes his phone away and dials the number, he hears the recorded greeting of a company called Wild Cat Tracking. Confused, he asks the Coyote what this is, but the other man refuses to answer. After Church takes his partner to the hospital, Shelby John tracks the number down to the head of the drug trade in his community, and it turns out to be none other than Peter, Ruby Red’s brother-in-law through her sister Darlene.
Apparently, a man approached Peter years ago to deliver his product. The initial experience excited Peter, and he took over the man’s business. Since then, he has poisoned his own community, ruining it from within.
Is Peter Dead?
After the big revelation that Peter is responsible for flooding their community with opioid drugs, Shelby John shows him a needle and instructs him to use it on himself, making his intention clear that he wants to kill Peter in the same way that Ruby Red died. Peter vehemently refuses, declaring that he is no junkie. Peter manages to shoot at Shelby John, but it only injures the other man. The two men fight desperately until Shelby John overpowers the other man and injects him with the opioid drug, killing him.
If not anything else, this has brought the community a temporary respite from the drugs. Someone will probably occupy the empty spot left behind by Peter in the future because that is the nature of these things, but for now, the people living in the area can enjoy a moment of peace.
Will Sheriff Church Arrest Shelby John?
In the final moments of the film, Shelby John gets baptized in the river, keeping his final promise to his dead girlfriend. We see Church waiting for him at the riverbank. When he embarked on the path, he was pretty sure he would die at some point, not considering the possibility of being alive after all of it was over. And he probably didn’t have any issue with that. His grief and desire for revenge were immeasurable, and he let them control him.
Shelby John wanted to surrender to Church when the latter caught up to him, but then, Church’s partner was shot, and the Sheriff had to leave. This made Shelby John believe that he had God’s approval for what he had done. However, human laws function differently. After all, he has killed several people, and no matter who they were, the law of the land will not let someone get away after they have committed multiple counts of murder. So, in all probability, Church will arrest Shelby John.
Read More: Is Savage Salvation Based on a True Story?