SHOULD I SEE IT?
This is brutal, bombastic filmmaking - with some very pointed commentary about rape culture, vengeance, and subverting the “male gaze” by director Coralie Fargeat.
MIranda Lutz gives a powerhouse performance and Revenge somehow, through its extreme violence and bloodletting, still finds a way for her to stand out from all the graphic content in the film.
French New Wave extremism, throwback revenge thrillers, and flat-out shocking scenes of body horror and violence - all of this builds to a movie that will have you gasping for air and marveling at the talent behind the camera.
The stomach-churning violence and gore is probably as good a place to start as anywhere else.
I could see some folks rolling their eyes deep into their heads when using this as an example of “feminist” filmmaking.
Predictable and about 20 minutes or so too long, Revenge is going to be too much for a viewers who are more accustomed to mainstream movie offerings.
Perhaps the best way to introduce a review of the jaw-dropping and gut-wrenching Revenge (those are compliments, by the way), is to remind everyone of the reaction the film’s director Coralie Fargeat had when seeing one of the more bloody and shocking sequences from her debut feature film.
We will get to the plot in a moment, but in this one particular scene we have a bad guy named Stan (Vincent Colombe), running after Jen (Matilda Lutz), a woman attempting to kill him for reasons explained shortly. Wily and clever, Jen breaks a flashlight’s glass against a rock and sets something of a trap for Stan, chasing her with bare feet. Trust me, it makes sense when you see the film.
We all know what’s coming, and sure enough, Stan steps down, at great velocity, and jabs a massive shard of glass directly into his foot. When he sits down and he turns over his foot, a canyon-like gash is present but we cannot see the glass. And naturally, he is compelled to dig into his foot, with a good three-finger intrusion, and try and forcibly remove the glass, in tact. If you haven’t guessed, Fargeat’s camera is up close, good and snug, showing us all of this: the foot, the copious amounts of blood, the massive gash, the fingers digging in and out and, of course the glass slowly being extracted.
Famously, this scene caused a viewer, at the film’s premiere last fall at the Toronto International Film Festival, to lapse into a seizure (he turned out to be alright). Fargeat, seeing it in the context of her final product, on the big screen, with an audience, understood the reaction, telling Indiewire, ”I was feeling weird, and I shot it!”
Revenge is an uncompromising, uncomfortable, and relentless horror film where Jen has arrived with her millionaire (and also married) boyfriend Richard (Kevin Janssens), for a little vacation/siesta at his vacation mansion in the middle of nowhere. To Jen’s surprise, Richard’s two best buddies show up, the aforementioned Stan and Dimitri (Guillaume Bouchède), who decide they are turning this into a boys’ weekend of sorts, with a lot of drinking, hunting, and other forms of debauchery.
Jen represents a particular type of movie trope – “The Hot Chick.” She is a dyed, dirty blonde, wears tight T-shirts, short shorts, appears self-centered, and sucks on a lollipop, and looks to be free with her sexuality. However, Fargeat is going to pull the rug right out from under us before we get too far into the story. First, though, we have to take a journey to Hell and back with Jen, as she endures rape and shocking violence, and then bear witness to her resourcefulness as she summons the strength and resolve to survive and exact revenge.
Though the film runs too long, and Fargeat becomes a little too consumed with over-the-top, gory theatrics and visuals, Revenge is a movie unlike any I have seen in awhile. Through all the blood-letting, there is an inventiveness and style put forth that reminds one of the fearlessness of Quentin Tarantino’s early work or David Cronenberg’s fascination with body horror. Fargeat is not afraid to show us everything we don’t want to see, but her ability to keep us watching when we simply do not want to keep looking, and to subvert perception and interpretation is wise beyond her years.
I must acknowledge that this movie is far too intense and violent for a lot of people I know, and though, I want to believe I can handle just about anything nowadays, Revenge had me turning away and gasping for air on a couple of occasions.
Lutz is tremendous and Fargeat praised her in a recent Q&A for trusting her enough to guide her through the more challenging and difficult scenes depicted on screen. Fargeat also is masterful in how she toys with our expectations. Where most films telegraph their jump scares or supposed “surprise” moments, Revenge works in off-time, with an odd cadence. There is an unpredictable nature to everything we see, from the way which Jen resurrects herself from a life-altering attack, or the manner with which Stan makes a shocking discovery while washing up in a river.
Revenge is a really disconcerting, unnerving film at times, but also rather brilliant as well. The weakest moment comes in an elongated final confrontation that, unfortunately, goes for far too long, and dampens the overall enthusiasm we experience anticipating that final sequence.
I can chalk up some of the film’s stumbles to what a friend of mine refers to as “First Film-itis.” However, flaws aside, and excessive carnage acknowledged, Coralie Fargeat has delivered a truly impressive debut film.
CAST & CREW
Starring: Miranda Lutz, Kevin Janssens, Vincent Colombe, Guillaume Bouchède.
Director: Coralie Fargeat
Written by: Coralie Fargeat
Release Date: May 11, 2018