Film Review: REVENGE (2017)

Film Review: REVENGE (2017)

Sep 17, 2018

IMDb: REVENGE (2017)
Director: Coralie Fargeat
Stars: Matilda Lutz, Kevin Janssens, Vincent Colombe, Guillaume Bouchede

Writer/director Coralie Fargeats’s REVENGE might be, as of now, one of the most “beautifully ugly” films I have ever seen, and certainly one of the most gorgeously-shot rape/revenge features of this or any time. There are two different ways you can look at what kind of vibe Fargeat is trying to transmit here: you can call it the cinematic equivalent of a radical women’s rights advocate, breaking into a “men’s rights” meeting with an AR-15 and blowing the living fuck out of everyone.  Or you could call it a case of “what’s good for the goose is good for the gander” – taking the ridiculous action tropes of testosterone-fueled murderthons like COMMANDO and RAMBO (pick your sequel) and giving them a radical sex change.

In any other picture like this, Jen (MATILDA LUTZ from RINGS) would be a beautiful trophy, ornamental to her ‘hot’ boyfriend, Richard, (Belgian actor KEVIN JANSSENS). And what happens to her would have been the end game…another party girl, looking to have a good time, totally oblivious of what predicament she’s in, until it’s too late. Close-up of her lifeless face, fade out, cut to the next scene. And you’d never hear from her again.

But in this version of the story, a kind of ‘I SPIT ON YOUR GRAVE-meets-THE NAKED PREY’ out in the desert, Fargeat has other plans entirely for our girl.

Making quite an entrance into this swanky, interior designer’s dream out in the middle of nowhere, Jen arrives with Richard, apparently to spend a few days with him. Very much the girly-girl, with huge star earrings, scantily-clad with her pink iPod, she can’t believe she gets to have alone time in a house like this, and a guy like Richard, who seems to be quite the catch. (“Seems” being the operative word here.)  There’s a lot Jen doesn’t know about Richard.  But she’s about to find out – the hard way.

See, her boyfriend-for-the-time-being has a house out here because – among other things – he likes to hunt. But he’s got more baggage than that…baggage that comes in the form of his two hunting buddies, Stan (VINCENT COLOMBE) and Dimitri (GUILLAUME BOUCHEDE). To put it kindly, Stan and Dimitri, as smitten as they are with Jen at first sight, are way out of her league.  As in Mount St. Helens-versus-Kilimanjaro out.

And Jen, being the free spirit as she is, plays ‘nice’ with them, especially Stan, since they happen to be friends of Richard.  You know – you party, you have a good time together, as one supposedly does, and it’s no big deal.  Well, not to Jen, anyway.

Stan, however is a different matter. Richard is the undisputed leader of the threesome, and when he – ‘the cat’ – is away, Stan decides that it’s time for his ‘mouse’ to ‘play’ with his boss’s toy…

Here’s where Fargeat makes her move to beat filmmakers like Tarantino at their own game. The way she ramps up the objectification of Jen by Richard’s cohorts isn’t just obvious, but blatant to the point of cinematic sarcasm. There is no way with the scenes that set the stage for the brutality that happens next, that you can’t see what’s coming from a million miles away.

And by the way – that objectification goes both ways, as the audience is treated to plenty of bareassed naked shots of the buff Janssens.

When Richard returns to the mess his friends have made, he does what every good rich boyfriend does: he tries to buy Jen off, with a job he’s set up for her in Canada, and also, we can assume, a shitload of money. And she does what any girl who’s been sexually assaulted by her boyfriend’s piggy cohort would do…she threatens to tell Richard’s wife about everything.

Wrong move, of course, since this is where Jen discovers that, not surprisingly at all, Richard is just as sociopathic as he is handsome. Not a huge shocker, either, when what looks like an effort to placate Jen turns out to be Richard’s ploy to “erase the problem”…meaning her. One simple push from a high cliff, and the movie’s over, right? (And please – no complaints about spoilers. That shot is in the trailer.)

WRONG.  Because as little as Jen really knew her lover, Richard, and his mates knew surprisingly little about her, now THEY’RE about to find out a few things. Like never judge a very attractive book by its cover.

The director couches her subversive agenda in the most gorgeous setting possible, thanks in no small part to the work of her DP, ROBRECHT HEYVAERT. The bright, rich candy-colors become almost uncomfortably psychedelic, enhancing the scenes of unrestrained violence – a bad acid trip from which the audience has no escape, (funny, since a pivotal scene with Jen has a lot to do with certain psychotropic substances.)

I’m not sure if REVENGE would fit snugly into the category of the “French Extreme Horror” genre, but one thing is crystal-clear: Fargeat at no time skimps on the brutality (except with how the rape is portrayed) or the torture.  She takes especially grim pleasure in seeing to it that Jen’s rapist and her would-be-murderers suffer greatly.

I can’t remember the last time I spent so much time looking AWAY from the screen. Mad props to the practical makeup effects team, who really earned their bread-and-butter here. Jen’s agonizing ordeal as she rises from literal ashes to transform from battered beauty to “avenging phoenix”, and the torturous pursuit of one of the men chasing after her as he tries to kill her – those are two sequences in particular that I won’t be forgetting anytime soon.

Once again, the execution (pun intended) of the material far surpasses how commonplace it is in either the action or horror worlds. For that reason, and also for the way that Fargeat deconstructs the very nature of the “action-thriller”, REVENGE gets a well-earned three-and-a-half out of five stars.