Hollywood is in a bit of a transitional period in the wake of the #MeToo movement that kicked many predators to the curb, creating the foundation for a proper environment for people to enjoy a safer workplace. And while the events that have transpired over the last few months will only begin to have an effect on films that have just entered production, recently released films that handle important, timely themes such as women empowerment have an extra bit of power to them, and that’s precisely where Revenge operates.
The following review will be spoiler free.
Directed By: Coralie Fargeat
Written By: Coralie Fargeat
Starring: Matilda Lutz, Kevin Janssens, Vincent Colombe, and Guillaume Bouchede
As part of a romantic getaway, Richard (Janssens) and his mistress Jen (Lutz) are enjoying their remote home in the desert. But, their lovely time together halts when two of Richard’s sleazy friends arrive a day early for a hunting trip.
While everything seems fine at first, tensions quickly rise, and one of the friends forces himself on Jen. Terrified, Jen threatens to go to the police once they get back into town. Afraid that his secret will get out, Richard gangs up on Jen with his two friends, chasing her through the desert and eventually pushing her off a cliff — where she’s impaled by a tree and left for dead.
Upon regaining consciousness, Jen looks to repair her wounds…and seek revenge on the three men that wronged her.
After premiering at TIFF in 2017 as part of the Midnight Madness section of the festival, Revenge became a cult hit of sorts, gaining a following for its brash nature and timely messages.
In her first performance as a director of a feature-length film, Coralie Fargeat is clearly trying to shock viewers. As a matter of fact, the film uses so much blood that the prop team would often run out of fake blood to use during action set pieces. Revenge certainly isn’t a thriller that’s fishing to keep itself tame to reach as wide of an audience as possible.
However, Revenge is probably receiving most of its fame for its ties to the burgeoning #MeToo movement in its deconstruction of the male gaze. Odds are as more films go into production since the original publication of The New York Times report on Harvey Weinstein that we’ll get more films like Revenge, and — as a critic that will see most of these films — that’s a pretty great world in which to live.
Revenge Digs Deep into its Exploitative Roots
It’s really great to see a movie that simply doesn’t care about fitting into certain quadrants. Movies today are so concerned with finding their audience that they sometimes forget to do one of the more important things in moviemaking: create something unique. Coralie Fargeat bucks hard against this trend, creating a film that does its best to become as hard-hitting and gory as possible.
Revenge channels a certain energy that many low-budget B-movies try to emulate but never quite reach. Fargeat handles the blood and action with great kinetic energy that is always coherent…and gleefully horrific. Characters are sliced and diced at will, leaving nothing to the imagination. Even better, Revenge‘s use of practical effects adds to the visceral nature of the film, causing you as the viewer to flinch just a bit more as blood covers the screen.
Characters roam around the desert using pump-action, scoped guns that’ll leave gaping holes in the unfortunate souls that get hit. However, where the film’s gory nature is most affective is in the plight of the main character. Matilda Lutz’s Jen encounters so much disturbing, unwarranted brutality in the setup of the plot that she has the complete endorsement from the viewer to act as violently as she wants. The people she’s going after deserve everything they get, and it’s unbelievably satisfying to watch terrible people bleed uncontrollably in a fictional setting as Lutz turns into a star before our very eyes.
Coralie Fargeat Adds a Nice Feminist Touch
If you’ve ever watched one of Red Letter Media‘s episodes of “Best of the Worst” on YouTube (which I highly suggest you watch if you don’t already), you’d know that rape is used way too often as the instigator of the plot or whatever facsimile of a plot the film has. Most low-budget filmmakers don’t understand the implications that come with rape, and their films come off as gross and inappropriate as a result — even if there’s a women in the lead. But Fargeat isn’t your typically filmmaker in that respect, and the use of rape is in service to a story that is the bloody personification of women empowerment.
Revenge carefully breaks down the notion of male dominance in the story by examining how characters react to adversity. The film doesn’t tell you who’s strong, it shows you while cleverly depicting those that aren’t with solid visual cues and dynamic filmmaking. Rage and other emotions consume individuals, forcing to them to act less than cogently. Madness swells through this film, and those that don’t fully give in come out the other side unscathed. Coralie Fargeat lets the characters speak (and fight) for themselves.
Revenge Sometimes Struggles to Become More than a Low-Budget Flick
This thriller has a wonderful sense of atmosphere and scope for such a small production, yet there’s a palpable sense of it trying to transcend what it is by utilizing very on-the-nose imagery that becomes painfully obvious rather quickly. There’s a point for every viewer where the message that the director is trying to convey becomes clear and that same viewer internally takes note of it within the context of the film. However, Fargeat doesn’t stop at that point, and it feels like the film is trying way too hard to make sure you understand what it’s going for in a certain scene.
These issues are very apparent as Revenge attempts to build its world in the first act. It feels like Revenge is trying to prove that it’s more than another low-budget film when it never had to do so. These moments clash with the smarter, more subversive beats of the film. Not only is it clunky, but it undermines the powerful, subtle elements of feminism in the film that deserve your attention.
Gleefully violent and surprisingly thoughtful, Revenge is a lovely, ferocious, and bloody triumph from newcomer Coralie Fargeat. It takes the usual tropes from films that are normally left in the bargain bin at your local Walmart and spins them on their head for a movie that makes great use of its central theme.
Matilda Lutz is a revelation as a badass who joins the ranks of recent powerful female protagonists, and while the film doesn’t always hit the mark in explaining its themes, it’s a great, exploitative adventure that is sure to entertain.