Of all the subgenres in film, I’m kind of a sucker for a good revenge flick. The Count Of Monte Cristo, Kill Bill, The Crow, Django Unchained, John Wick, Gladiator, The Outlaw Josey Wales. They are all films that are the quickest to grab my attention in terms of understanding the needs of the character. A tale of someone seeking justice without the hindrance of rules or morals. One of the granddaddies of them all is the 1978 exploitation film, I Spit On Your Grave. The film I’m reviewing here, Revenge, does not come close to the gory exploitiveness of an I Spit On Your Grave. However, one can’t help but feel that Revenge is a bit of an echo to what I Spit On Your Grave left, for better or worse.
The glitzy colors mixed with the minimalism of narrative makes Revenge feel like a Jonathan Glazer film (Sexy Beast, Under The Skin) by way of the late great Tony Scott (Literally every film in the ’90s). It actually comes to us from French director, Coralie Fargeat. It tells the tale of a “party girl” named Jen who, while on vacation with her married boyfriend, suddenly finds herself attacked, left for dead, and miraculously saved allowing her to seek her vengeance. And though it seems like I’m being vague to avoid spoilers, Revenge’s plot doesn’t get much more intricate than that. Since we come directly into the middle of a pretty cliched situation between the characters and don’t know or learn much about them, there really isn’t much for me to cling to in terms of their goodness or badness. This is a big part, for me at least, in getting the intended catharsis of any revenge film.
We know how good of a man and how despicable of a person Maximus and Commodus are respectively before the inciting incident and quest for revenge takes place in Gladiator. Characters do nothing but talk about the character of John Wick and the reasons he got out and why it’s really bad that he’s coming in his film. Same with William Munny in Unforgiven, or the Bride in Kill Bill, or John Creasy in Man On Fire, or Khan Noonien Singh in Wrath Of Khan. Because we know so little about Jen her man and her man’s friends, we are left to just focus on the incident and titular revenge, weakening the overall catharsis. In short, you care less because you’re given hardly anything to care about. A stripped down revenge flick was likely Fargeat’s intention, along with the idea of just having a normal victimized female brutally confronting her attackers. (A clear commentary on the social climate we are living in today with victims of physical and psychological abuse fearlessly fighting back against their abusers.)
As I alluded to before, the visuals of the film are really well done, as well as the accompanying synthy score by Robin Coudert. Fargeat has a great eye, a flair for symbolic imagery and a bright future ahead of her. As far as debut feature film outings go, Revenge is not bad at all. It just left me feeling unfulfilled near the end, making it an INSUFFICIENT tale of revenge, in my opinion. Maybe I have to watch it again. Maybe you have to watch it too…and then tell me I’m wrong.