Revenge is a story as simple as its title. It’s a rape and revenge thriller, and that should tell you just about everything there is to know about the plot. Matilda Lutz plays our vengeful hero. Her name, backstory, or really any character traits apart from sheer grit and determination are irrelevant here. She’ll be hurt, she’ll survive against all odds, and one by one she’ll hunt them down. You expect the wide shots, the badass music, the brutal violence. We’ve seen it all before.
What I hadn’t seen before was not the story, but the telling of it. Writer-director-editor Coralie Fargeat has given this movie a distinctive voice, making it memorable not in its plot points, but its minutiae. I remember the bit apple, the blood dripping on the ant, the star-shaped earring. Cinematographer Robrecht Heyvaert employs extreme close-ups, making the movie’s desert setting feel all the more gritty, visceral and real. Just like The Revenant, another revenge movie, made us feel the cold, Revenge makes us feel the heat. The sounds of the desert are loud too, completing the effect of immersion. When you not only see what the protagonist sees, but also feel what she feels, you don’t need a backstory to get invested.
The editing deserves special mention. It is perhaps the biggest reason the movie is so engrossing. Now usually the kind of editing most deserving of praise is the kind that is so seamless that you forget it’s there. The editors on Revenge announce their presence with a bang, and take over the show. The sudden cuts are flashy, showy, and spectacular. If the deliberate pacing used effectively to build tension throws you off, these edits are what will keep you engaged.
From a story perspective, the one thing I did find remarkable here was the symbolism. There’s a subtly effective phoenix metaphor in the way she comes back after being left for dead. Well, at least until the movie decides to get rid of the subtlety and embrace that metaphor as its emblem. And while the movie offers no deep feminist insights, it’s certainly interesting to see how the 3 antagonists of the film embody different traits associated with toxic masculinity: entitlement, apathy and a bloated, fragile ego. To me, this made their comeuppance all the more satisfying.
Revenge isn’t some masterpiece of action, hell, it’s not even a masterpiece in the revenge subgenre. But it’s a good movie, and one I highly recommend to those who need an outlet for righteous feminist rage.
If you don’t mind copious amounts of blood, gore and full frontal male nudity that is.
Revenge is available for digital rent and download now.