★★★ 1/2 out of ★★★★★
So. Much. Blood. Seriously copious amounts of the red liquid of life gets spilled in this beautifully shot and straightforward thriller.
Directed by Coralie Fargeat
Revenge delivers on its title. This is a French-made, English language, upscale version of the 70’s rape/revenge thriller, made popular by The Last House on the Left and I Spit on Your Grave. It is a brash thriller, and one might think of chalking this up to a misogynistic sleaze fest, until you realize that this is directed by a woman, Fargeat, in her feature debut. Interesting!
Certainly, on the face of things, she has a gorgeous lead in the ridiculously fit Matilda Lutz as our heroine Jen, who spends most of the movie barely clothed, but sporting the most battle ready underwear in the known world. Ms. Lutz is absolutely something to behold, but it is her strength of character and her ability to convey commitment and drive that really captures your attention. Come for the T&A, stay for the steely acting performance.
We meet Jen and her lover Richard (Kevin Janssens) as they helicopter in to his fancy modern Moroccan hunting lodge, where they relax and get frisky. Richard, a married Frenchman, has arranged to meet with his fellow rich CEO buddies Stan (Vincent Colombe) and Dimitri (Guillaume Bouchède) on their annual hunting trip. He did not inform Jen that they were coming, however, and she is surprised when they arrive unannounced.
They are as swarthy as Kevin is suave, and during drinks in the evening, Jen shamelessly flirts with all of the men. Dancing seductively, she actively plays very much a mischievous tease. Probably not the best thing to do. Jealousy arises. Libidos trump common sense (and ethics, and morals), and terrible things happens, with Jen finding herself impaled on a tree, and left for dead. (Make whatever metaphors you want from that.)
Jen, is one tough woman though, and she is far from dead. She struggles to get back on her feet, and manages to use her wits and guts to evade the men, and manages to catch a couple of lucky breaks that allows her to exact her REVENGE, methodically scheming to eliminate her foes one by one. It’s quite satisfying.
The acting is solid, particularly Vincent Colombe’s troubled and nervous Stan, who though being a reprehensible sort, is the only one to seem to express any regret for what they’ve done, and granted, he’s a huge reason why the men get into the pickle they find themselves in. There isn’t a whole lot of dialogue though, and it wouldn’t require a master thespian to handle the dialogue in this movie. The actors fit their roles and types to the tee, but if I’m being critical here, the plot doesn’t have a whole lot of surprises to it. It’s a linear straight-line story that will be familiar to most.
The practical effects are outstanding, particularly for a first time director. The movie contains one of the most wince inducing foot injuries that you will ever see on screen. I was audibly crowing “OWWWW!!!” when that scene happened. The rape scene was thankfully underplayed for what I thought could have been. It’s rough, but it’s not I Spit On Your Grave rough.
All of the characters have some sort of extra supply of blood available to them. There were multiple times where various characters should have blacked out for lack of blood. The blood flows like there’s an endless supply of it. And, the old chestnut of cauterizing a surface wound is functionally deployed in a fun but totally preposterous way. Jen is Schwarzenegger-esque in her ability to shake of mortal wounds.
I will hand Fargeat a compliment for having three distinctly despicable foes for Jen. Each of them in their own way is unlikable and villainous, without being so mustache twirling to be eye rolling. Fargeat also has a knack for scene building, loading up the tension, and slowly amplifying it and not allowing release all at once (like a jump scare) but with some fantastic violent beats that keep the pacing of the movie humming along. She also has a terrific visual eye, and kudos need to be given to cinematographer Robrecht Heyvaert for his artful use of the Moroccan backdrop.
Revenge is rated R, for a whole lot of violence, a rape, some sexual situations, and male nudity. (Ironically… not Lutz!) This film is available for free with a Shudder subscription, streaming on Amazon Prime.