New York Daily News: "This amateurish work has the
look and feel of a student film... This is a movie that's too square for some
and too dull for all. The whole thing feels like a video you watch at a
historical re-creation park before going to the gift shop."
Slant magazine: "The film, adapted from Cay's memoir,
is impossible to take seriously as a commemoration of Moultrie's life or Allen's
prolific status because of its plethora of contrivances, from the film score
that's so sentimental it almost suggests an intentional satire of middlebrow
historical dramas, to the cloying script that has Allen's charming little
pleasantries treated by everyone who lives in the film's Mayberry-as-Savannah as
Village Voice: "Annette Haywood-Carter's Hallmark
Channel–ish film celebrates his rabble-rousing and fiercely independent streak
with a suffocating earnestness. Drenched in dewy-eyed nostalgia, tinged with
sorrow for the way changing tides made Ward an outcast, the story overflows with
reverence but is drastically short on passion or suspense, and the framing
device - in which an aged Christmas (Ejiofor, in awful old-man make-up)
remembers his exploits with Ward to a friend (Bradley Whitford) - is as awkward
and messy as the action proper is inert."
IndieWire: "Problems with the movie arise from the
very first moment, where we're introduced to the rather confused structure that
the movie will utilize to tell its tale. Based on the memoir, 'Ward Allen:
Savannah River Market Hunter,' the first misstep is in establishing a
flashback structure whereby we see a 95-year-old Christmas (Chiwetel Ejiofor in
some truly awful old age make-up) relate the stories of Ward to lawyer/friend
Jack Cay (Bradley Whitford), who wrote the book the movie is based on. It's not
clear why this format is used other than to include the author as a character in
the adaptation of his own work. But this already speaks to the level of ambition
(or lack of it) that the filmmakers have in regards to the material. There
doesn't seem to be any effort at all to move beyond the memoir or use it as a
starting off point - the picture seems to be merely a collection of anecdotes
about Ward strung together into a two hour running time.
Timeout: "Like Allen’s bagged prey, the movie’s story
is limp, its romances are flightless and, despite the talented cast, its
performances are toothless."
NY Post: "An aristocratic, renegade white man goes
hunting with a freed slave in the Old South: It sounds like 'Django Unchained.'
But in the stately, persistently uninteresting 'Savannah,' the duo shoots ducks,
not racists and criminals, and Jim Caviezel, as the real-life duck hunter Ward
Allen, is no Christoph Waltz. Allen swaggers up and down the river like an
overgrown Huck Finn, accompanied by Christmas Moultrie (Chiwetel Ejiofor). Allen
spouts ornate dialogue and refuses to abide by society’s norms. But he never
comes across as much more than a gasbag drunk, and his romance with a rebellious
society girl (Jaimie Alexander) lacks the impact of either passion or tragedy."
NY Times: "The story becomes one of personal loss
rather than epic adventure. We also don’t learn much about how the bond between
Allen and his black friend was formed or see it evolve. So the film’s tale ends
up being less rich than its lovely Georgia settings."
Variety: "Despite an effective Jim Caviezel, this anecdotal drama never
rises above the level of lightly likable."
Reporter: "Like its central character, 'Savannah' seems displaced in time,
its resolutely old-fashioned storytelling style feeling woefully out of place in
the modern multiplex."