'Revenge' film review: Watch a socialite become the badass of 2018 cinema
If ever there was a hybrid of art house cinema and exploitation flick, it's this bloody ride. This story of a rape victim left for dead by three men unfolds exactly as expected - but "Revenge" (screening during the 44th Seattle International Film Festival) is more than its violent premise.
In short: Three men rape young socialite Jen (Matilda Lutz) and leave her for dead in the desert - but she didn't die ... and she isn't looking just to run away from them.
The "rape and revenge" theme isn't new ground - in fact, it is its own subgenre under the exploitation umbrella. Run-of-the-mill grindhouse flicks are wholly reliant on the spectacle of gushing blood and rampant gore. And yes - there's tons of gore and so much blood that characters actually slip in it at one point. Most entries follow a pretty standard formula of despicable acts followed by righteous retribution.
With a relatively few plot points, the entire plot could be summed up pretty succinctly, and yet, the film never feels like it has too much fat to trim despite its near two hour runtime. What elevates "Revenge" apart from something like "I Spit On Your Grave" or "The Last House on the Left" is this film focuses intently on its characters and isn't merely some lame excuse for over-the-top cinematic horror.
This film invests time in revealing how plot turns affect and change the characters, often letting scenes linger and allowing them to soak in what's happening. "Revenge" isn't limited by its few plot points - it lets each one breath. Whether it's a scantily clad Jen's initial discomfort with the sudden arrive of her boyfriend's hunting buddies or the menacing intent when an entitled man makes unwanted advances on her, "Revenge" never rushes a plot point. No plot turns shove the story forward just to get to the next plot point - the audience is forced to take in how Jen and her three assailants react to the events as the situation degrades quickly.
The film revels in the small, intimate moments. It's not enough that a character suffers a grievous foot injury - that character must then use that same foot to stomp on the gas pedal. The hallmark of all exploitation flicks is in taking satisfaction in seeing the bad guys get dismantled, and "Revenge" leverages its focus not just on inflicting physical pain on the characters - but also wearing them down with stress and terror.
And the unlikely protagonist of a horror thriller is Jen - who should be one everyone's shortlist for most badass film character of 2018. She is first introduced as little more than a sexy mistress who loves her pink iPod and chewing bubble gun, stuck in a villa surrounded by a trio of heavily armed recreational hunters. By the time she's thrown into an impossible situation, the odds are impossibly stacked against Jen: an unarmed, grievously injured socialite left for dead in the desert, against three armed villains. The brilliance of "Revenge" is typified by the moment when the audience shifts from "how is she going to survive them?" to "how can they possibly survive her?"
"Revenge" plays loose with some plot points - such as how a barefoot woman can track a moving vehicle in the desert quickly or exactly how Jen could survive her gruesome injuries. But it's a small grievance given just how well the action and intensity is composed and executed.
Final verdict: This taunt, intense and blood-soaked cat-and-mouse hunt exploitation flick masterfully overlays entertainment and well-crafted character immersion.
"Revenge" is now playing in select cities and screens during the 44th Seattle International Film Festival. The film has a running time of 118 minutes and is rated R for strong bloody gruesome violence, a rape, sexuality, graphic nudity, drug use and language.