One lady walked out of the theater after the first ten minutes, if that tells you anything.
I’ve seen some pretty bloody and gruesome films over the years. Rambo IV, Saw, Evil Dead and that moment in Kill Bill when Lucy Liu chops someone’s head off and it starts spraying in the air like a garden house all come to mind. None of them, however, compare to Revenge.
A bold statement to lead off this review with, I know, but once you see a certain scene involving a shard of glass and someone’s foot, you’ll know exactly what I’m talking about.
Luckily, Revenge isn’t only exploitative scenes and gross-out moments — there’s actually a pretty good movie buried underneath all of that.
Revenge comes from French director Coralie Fargeat, making her feature film debut.
I believe Revenge played at a series of film festivals throughout the past year — most noticeably in the Midnight Madness segment at TIFF — picking up positive buzz and strong word of mouth along the way.
It’s not hard to tell why. This is one that people are going to be talking about for awhile.
It was supposed to a normal, relaxing weekend. Richard (Kevin Janssens), a married man, decided to bring his mistress Jen (Matilda Anna Ingrid Lutz) up to his secluded home that’s out in the middle of the desert.
Richard’s buddies Stan (Vincent Colombe) and Dimitri (Guillaume Bouchéde) were then supposed to join Richard a few days later for a hunting get-together, but Jen was supposed to be long gone by then.
If only that’s how everything actually played out. Stan and Dimitri wind up showing up a few days early, quickly making themselves at home.
Making themselves at home a little too much, I might add. One thing leads to another and eventually, Jen is forced into an abusive situation at their hands.
She’s then pushed off a cliff and left for dead out in the middle of the desert so that she can’t go home and tell the police or their families about what was done to her.
Jen, however, isn’t really dead. She survives the fall and slowly begins to rebuild herself — becoming born again, like a Phoenix rising out of the ashes (as to which the film hits with some pretty on-the-nose type symbolism, but I still kinda dug it).
Now, she’s out for blood. She isn’t just going to kill the men who did this to her — she’s going to brutally, unforgivably destroy their entire lives.
Cue about 12,000 gallons of fake blood, because no one is walking home away from this one in one piece.
The best thing that Revenge has going for it is that it knows exactly what it is. This isn’t trying to be an Oscar-winning drama or a serious biopic. It’s a genre film and Fargeat wisely knows this, so she plays into all the aspects of a genre film and makes it a whole lot of bloody fun.
Bloody fun that never gets lost in itself within that premise. Yes, there are moments when the whole thing is gross — but it’s not just gore for the sake of being gore. That’s what torture porn is, and that’s what I can’t stand in movies. There’s rhyme and reason for all of it in Revenge, as it fits the mold and the world that these characters are living in.
That world is a pretty stylized one, as Fargeat directs Revenge in a way that’s a lot more interesting than similar movies. Plenty of tracking shots, sound effects, close-ups and spectacular uses of geography (I’m thinking about the house itself, as Fargeat really lays out the landscape well during the film’s climax) that make this stand out.
It also stands out purely from a feminist point of view. The first ten minutes of Revenge feel like a Michael Bay movie. Jen walks out of a character, sucking on a lollipop, with the camera zoomed way in on her butt. There are about twenty similar scenes that line the next ten minutes of the movie, making it all feel a little in poor taste.
Then the twist happens, which is handled delicately (we’re not shown, exactly, what’s happening to Jen but we certainly get the feel for it). Suddenly, after surviving the fall and all, she’s not the sex object she once was but now a powerful character who’s about to wreck shit up.
The way Fargeat handles this tonal switch actually works quite well, as she certainly has something to say about men’s behavior and women in film.
The one thing that I just couldn’t quite let go of in Revenge is the suspension of disbelief that the film asks you to have. There are moments when characters would be dead after certain injuries, without question. I mean, there’s no possible way people could survive.
Yet, they do. While you can make an argument that it’s all for symbolic purposes, I’m going to push back on that because this movie all, supposedly, takes place in the real world and when you have characters do something that’s so unnatural to the real world, it takes me out of the movie. There’s a way to be symbolic and realistic at the same time, and Revenge doesn’t quite master that.
Still, if you can stomach it, Revenge is unlike most other movies you’re going to see this summer. There’s a Mad Max, almost Tomb Raider (not necessarily the Alicia Vikander film, but the property itself) like feel to the whole thing, only with a whole lot more blood. Blood with a purpose though — Jen isn’t just a throwaway character that the camera ogles the whole time. She came to do some damage here, and the way that Fargeat captures all of that is second to none.
Watch the trailer for Revenge here and let us know, in the comments below, what you thought about the movie!
'Revenge' review: A simple title for a simple story7