May 7, 2018 Revenge (Movie Review)
Don’t piss off your mistress, boys! In the tradition of some of the fiercest revenge fantasies, such as I Spit On Your Grave and Last House on the Left, comes the aptly-named Revenge, which arrives to select theaters, as well as On Demand, on Friday, May 11, 2018 thanks to Neon and Shudder.
Somewhere in the desert sits a gorgeous mansion, so remote that your best bet is to arrive via helicopter. Which is exactly what Richard (Kevin Janssens: Vermist series, The Ardennes 2015) does, along with his young, blonde mistress Jennifer (Matilda Lutz: Summertime 2016, Rings 2017), the picture of a pink-clad Lolita complete with a lollipop between her plump lips. Wasting no time, the pair settle into their weekend digs with a sensual aperitif and some re-productivity.
In fact, all is going swimmingly until Richard’s two business associates-cum-hunting-pals arrive. For his part, Stan (Vincent Colombe: Point Blank 2010, My King 2015) is just a little too taken with young Jen, while Dimitri (Guillaume Bouchède: Grounded short 2014, Two Is a Family 2016) is entirely enthralled with the alcoholic libations. When Stan decides not to take ‘no’ for an answer, the situation will quickly spiral out of control and lead the four into the heart of the desert, and you should know that the French take their revenge bloody serious!
Clocking in at 108 minutes in-length, Revenge was written and directed by the superbly-talented Coralie Fargeat (Le télégramme short 2003, Reality+ short 2014) and is a feature-length debut for this superb talent. Those behind the French film – which is told in French and English, with subtitles as needed – have billed it as a blend of Action, Romance, Adventure, Thriller and Horror – which is quite the mouthful! – though it reads more truly like a Thriller-Horror piece with heavy Action. Which is to say that Revenge plays out like a standard revenge-fest, full of blood-splatter and action, rifles and raw aggression.
Perhaps the first thing that you need to know about Revenge is that this is not a tale for the squeamish, as by the end of the film, the actors are literally slipping in the blood. This is a tale chock-full of ants, a blown off earlobe and torn up foot, a hunting knife to the eyeball, self-cauterization with beer can, and a nude stand-off for good measure. Oh yeah, and one creative use of Saran wrap! Much like other tales of survival dancing beside revenge, this film has well-earned its R-rating.
That said, in the lead role of Jennifer, Lutz does a phenomenal job of being equally alluring and fierce, ultimately rocking a rifle that is nearly the same length as her entire body. She runs through the desert for the majority of the film – in booty-shorts and a sports bra, no shoes – and by the end is covered in so much dirt, grime and blood that she looks like another woman entirely. While she doesn’t have an over-abundance of lines to work with, Lutz is superb in playing both sides of the coin: beautiful and sensual when the mood is light, ferocious and hellbent when the dookie hits the fan. In this sense, she embodies a kind of feminist icon, if you will: a woman who can embrace her sexuality but also defend herself against the most vicious of men.
The men here are headed up by Richard, and in this role Janssens is necessarily vicious. Despite ample opportunity to do the right thing by his lover, the married father sets the entire, tragic ball rolling with his truly vile actions. Janssens is cold and hard-hearted in the role, cruelly embodying the proverbial ‘bad guy.’ Colombe, as Stan, provides a more well-rounded, apprehensive character who is rotten-to-the-core but with hesitations. He does his role justice, adding another dimension to the three musketeers of evil. Meanwhile, Bouchède is given significantly less, serving as not much more than a third wheel, yet he does his role justice.
What makes Revenge unique, so far as Thrillers and vindictive scenarios go, is Director Fargeat’s artistic eye. Many of the films transitions are artfully done, referring back to earlier scenes, and there is a particular attention to detail that adds another layer to the entire production. There is a harsh dichotomy between the expansive, modern and lush mansion and the surrounding desert, and it is clear that Fargeat chose her forbidding landscape intentionally (“The desert is sublime, but merciless with the careless”). Additionally, there is an intriguing use of EDM throughout, with several scenes that play out like music video clips that will excite the teen demographic and get the blood-thumping.
While all of this amounts to an enjoyable watch, there are some issues with Revenge, not the least of which is the implausible premise that much of the plot sits upon. Falling off a cliff and being impaled on a tree trunk would kill the majority of us, while setting that tree on fire would likely finish off the rest. Here, it allows our heroine a means of freedom. Of course, without this, there would be no film, and so as viewers, we are forced to willingly suspend our disbelief. In fact, there are several instances that challenge our disbelief, and the blood is not always the proper color. That said, no matter its shortcomings, Revenge is always done such that it’s never cheesy or laughable; it maintains an intensity from start to finish and never falls into Velveeta territory.
There is a darkly ironic humor in moments of Revenge, and a fierce feminism that will leave its female viewers feeling triumphant. (The men, not so much. Sorry, boys.) With a landscape worthy of 1979’s Mad Max or 1995’s Tank Girl, and revenge as gruesome as 1978’s I Spit On Your Grave or 1972’s Last House on the Left, Revenge takes classic elements of Thriller-Horror, splashes some fresh blood onto the screen, and does justice to intensely gruesome comeuppance.
Definitely not for the weak of stomach, Revenge is a delicious fight-to-the-death that will keep your eyes glued to the screen for its near two-hour runtime. So, break out the popcorn and a good blanket and get ready to rumble. Though please remember, “Women always have to put up a fucking fight!” (Yes, yes we do!) For these reasons, CrypticRock give Revenge 4.5 of 5 stars.