Tuesday, May 15, 2018

'Revenge' Is a Nuanced and Stylish Revenge Thriller

Revenge is, well, a revenge film about a young woman named Jen (Matilda Lutz) who is taken by his rich French boyfriend Richard (Kevin Janssens) to a romantic getaway.  However, their weekend is interrupted by the untimely arrival of Richard’s hunting trip friends, Stan and Dimitri (Vincent Colombe and Guillaume Bouch├Ęde), who start giving Jen dirty looks as soon as they arrive.  The next day, Jen is horrifically raped, and when she can’t be pacified afterwards, she is pushed off a cliff and gets impaled on a tree.  The men, believing her to be dead, agree to continue with their hunting trip as if nothing has happened.  However, she survives and her improbable will to live is soon replaced by a burning, hate-filled desire of vengeance.

This movie is a throwback to the 70’s exploitation cinema, in which rape-and-revenge movies are a staple of.  As a result, it contains elements typical of those movies, like lurid visuals, unrealistic scenarios, a ridiculous amount of blood loss, and fake-looking body mutilation special effects.  Most importantly, its plot follows a predictable, trope-defined structure that requires much suspension of disbelief.
However, like Kill Bill (as well as most, if not all, of Tarantino’s movies, which are, after all, heavily inspired by old-school exploitation films) and Brawl in Cell Block 99, it has artistic motivations rather than purely “exploiting” the taste for the violent, the grotesque, and the titillating.  Thus, what makes it truly riveting is how its “exploitation” nature is given a nuanced and stylish execution by thoughtful direction, gorgeous cinematography, and creative editing.  This also allows the movie to play with metaphors without appearing pretentious.

All in all, Revenge is a perfectly solid grindhouse thriller.  It has a few notably dumb parts, but they are inconsequential when one understands the film for what it has intended itself to be.  There are some parts which are laughably unbelievable, but there are also some parts which are truly wince-inducing.  But both only pave the way for a genuinely gratifying and even occasionally thought-provoking revenge arc.

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