Movie Review

Revenge (2017) by Coralie Fargeat

Original Name: Revenge

Director:  Coralie Fargeat

Runtime: 108 minutes

Language: English/ French

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As the saying goes, revenge is a food best served cold; but for this hyper titular film, it has its singular taste: blood red syrup of revenge. “Revenge” raises above its bareboned premise and even thinner plot with its solid production and some neat physical acting directed by first time director Coralie Fargeat. It tells a story you hear everywhere, especially in this medium. Richard (Kevin Janssens) brings his mistress Jen (Italian actress Matilda Anna Ingrid Lutz) to his mansion during his hunt trip. Things go awry when his two hunting partners, Stan (Vincent Colombe) Dimitri (Guillaume Bouchède) come the day before planned. That’s all there is for an entire cast. Sexual tension arose and the next time we know, Jane gets raped by Stan and some hours later is pushed off a cliff because she threatens to tell Richard’s wife about their affair. It’s an usual macho-bullshit world through and through. Except Jane isn’t dead, despite a stake spears through her body, and she takes a matter into her own hands.

That’s basically the entire plot of “Revenge”. This film is, after all, a revenge-action-thriller plot, so is it thrilling enough to justify its running time? Pretty much. “Revenge” has a great flair for striking visual. From the underwater shots to the explicit violence (where it’s determined to show you all the way), to the wild desert landscape, to even the ‘bodies’ of the characters, are beautiful to look at. It’s stylish for sure, it has a memorable groovy soundtrack and sometimes it goes for bold visual choices: extreme close-up, slow-motion, out-of-focus imagery, to good effects. You can see a blood dripping through a close-up ant that each drop sounds like a gunshot. What I’m impressed the most, in addition, is how the film knows how to use the silence. Characters in the genre tend to talk a bit too much, explain the plan out loud in order to direct us on the direction it goes next. In “Revenge”, its best moments always come from those long scenes with no actual dialogue. Whether it’s Jane who struggles through her injury, or the men’s frustration over Jane’s increasingly threat, these moments are smartly conveyed visually.

Moreover, what make this flick so entertaining (and queasy) to watch is its unflinchingly fixtate to the ultra-violence of the flesh. All characters have blood dripping through their wounds, and chasing each other in a pool of blood. They find their “prey” through a trail of blood and they trip over their own blood. It’s not a campy ultra-violence Tarantino’s type, although its lust for blood is clear. It’s more gorefest in a sense your usual horror films are, but without glorify the violence. In one of its most memorable scene (which, to be honest, raises the film a mark for me), Jen has to deal with her open wound with a stake still sticking on the wound. The film is never shy for let us see the whole thing and we squirms the same way she does, but in the end it’s all worth the experience. This whole sequence is simply, for the ages.

When “Revenge” deals with the genre’s own trope. It manages just about enough to avoid obvious genre traps and make the journey suspense till the end. The final blows usually go short and sweet, without any meaningless conversation in between. The bad boys don’t often talk bullshit or spell out their plans (though there was one instance they did that). It does drag here and there and sometimes it falls back again on the cliche. One scene that comes directly to mind is when Jen successfully plant shards of glass on the ground. Instead of coming back to the injured victim to give him what he deserves, she runs so that the guy recovers and chases her again.

As for her character Jen, while Lutz does a admirable job to gain our sympathy, it remains a fact that we don’t know much about her. She talks very little, even in its early scenes which were supposed to flesh her character out. That might be a point, given the gang’s mistreatment to her is something all the women can relate to, thus Jen emerges not as a full-fledged character, but more as an icon. Her relationship with Richard, however, suffers given we never know for sure how long their relationship is and how intimate they were. It’s obvious the way the film frames Jen at first as a sex bomb. Through the eyes of hunger men, she’s nothing more than a disposable trophy girl, although it’d benefit the film better if it explores Richard and Jen’s foundation first. Usually, for an exploitation film like this one, it comes with an empty aftertaste. For “Revenge”, however, its ultra-violence and its flashy execution add up in the end. For Jen, she truly has a gut of steel.

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