Stars: 4.5 out of 5
Starring Matilda Lutz, Kevin Janssens, Vincent Colombe, and Guillaume Bouchède
Written and Directed by Coralie Fargeat
Not yet rated, but includes coarse language, nudity, violence and sexual violence
Runtime: 108 minutes
Playing Friday through Monday at Metro Cinema, 8712 109 St. in Edmonton. Visit www.metrocinema.org for more information.
Seldom does a director make her cinematic début with such an auspicious presentation. With Revenge, Coralie Fargeat offers a brutal dose of reality and comeuppance against not just a male-dominated movie industry but society in general as well. All that, and she does it with equal measures of gloss and grit too. There is a lot of ground to make and, in the age of #MeToo and the downfall of the Harvey Weinsteins of the world, this film offers an adrenaline kick in the pants of the effort.
Revenge wastes no time in setting us up for a satire that reaches into the cavity of suspense and pulls out a satisfying actioner with a heart. The very first scene shows a pinpoint of a helicopter coming straight toward the camera over a barren desert: a bullet shot in slow motion. The scenery is then reflected in the unsettling green sunglasses of Richard (Kevin Janssens) whose steely demeanour and chiselled features are a stern contrast to the young woman in the back seat, fully immersed in her own joie de vivre, lollipop in hand and pink plastic star earrings dangling. We’ve already gotten a sense of their relationship and who’s in charge of it.
That’s Jen (Matilda Lutz) in the back seat. Don’t be fooled though. She might start off the film as Richard’s playmate but Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned, so the saying goes. Sure, Richard is married but that doesn’t bother her much. When his friends Stan and Dimitri (Vincent Colombe and Guillaume Bouchède respectively) show up early for a planned hunting trip, it doesn’t take long for things to go from bad to worse to downright vile. There she is, traipsing around Richard’s secluded mansion in her underpants, taking a big bite of a perfect green apple, and then suddenly the unexpected guests arrive, glaring at her through the glass door, hunting rifles in hand. That green apple is soon overridden with atrocious large ants as it rots on the counter. Social commentary anyone?
I give Fargeat full credit for deftly depicting the subtleties of violence without showing much actual violence, at least in the first half of the movie. Everything is implied foreshadowing: every sinister smile, every grotesque close-up of a man chewing a chocolate bar, every time the TV is shown playing a wrestling program. It all lends toward the growing suspense and unease that the audience feels before Jen is eventually abused, violated and disrespected in various ways by all three men. It is difficult to watch as a bystander, and it is meant to be so. Everything these men do is disgusting and abhorrent. Soon after, she is left for dead, discarded like so many empty beer cans thrown over a cliff.
And that’s just where things get interesting. This movie wasn’t called Revenge for nothing. Jen was taken for granted but she is not just a plaything. She is Woman: hear her roar. She pries herself back from death, pink earrings intact, and proceeds to enact her vengeance. It is a bloody and brutal retaliation, one that makes other movies of this subgenre look naïve in comparison. Fargeat is reported to have stated that the production kept running out of fake blood. I believe her. The last half of the movie shows much violence, and that says something even if Jen says little herself. Her actions speak for themselves. This movie speaks for itself. It is taking revenge on other movies that so often show the violence against the woman with little recourse to the abuser. Ah … if only a movie could watch another movie and learn from it.
Revenge is a fantastic piece and smart as a whip: it gives you what you know you came to see, but it leaves you with its own reflections of the world as we know it, even if they are skewed like a desert in green sunglasses.