Saturday, 24 August 2019

Shudder Saturday: Revenge (2017)

Revenge is, in a number of ways, a standard thriller that has an appalling sexual assault on a young woman as the catalyst for the rest of the plot. But, in a number of important ways, it's also decidedly NOT like many others you could select.

Written and directed by Coralie Fargeat, things start with Richard (Kevin Janssens) and his younger lover (Jen, played by Matilda Anna Ingrid Lutz) being dropped off by helicopter at a remote house that will give them time together in peace. Well, that is the plan. They are soon joined by Richard's two friends, Stan and Dimitri, and one of the men decides that Jen should be available to him, despite what she may think about that. This sets off a chain of events that will, well, let's just say that things aren't going to end well for most of the main characters here.

Although it feels as if this couldn't possibly require the 108-minute runtime that it has, Revenge displays the plight of Jen in an unflinching way that allows viewers to see her strength develop without necessarily dwelling lasciviously on the trials that keep forcing her to grit her teeth and bear the pain she receives. There are moments here that will make you wince and flinch, including a downright brutal interface between a foot and a huge chunk of glass, but they're also satisfying. The title of the movie says it all, and the men are all completely deserving of the fate that Jen wants to deliver them.

Lutz is superb in the lead role, with her character developing in a way that feels based completely on a survival instinct kicking in, as opposed to any kind of hidden expertise that transforms her from victim to Sarah Connor by the halfway mark (a la the I Spit On Your Grave remake). The men, led by Janssens, but including the abuser and enabler, played by Guillaume Bouch├Ęde and Vincent Colombe, do a good job of being loathsome, and it's great to watch them grow more and more desperate as their situation worsens and they worry about their self-preservation.

Fargeat obviously puts a different spin on things, compared to a male director, and that is another plus point. We don't get too much background information on Jen, she's a typical young woman with typical plans for her life, as her entire character is about to be changed by this one major trauma, and the aftermath of it. The assault itself is filmed in a way that makes it clear what is happening without dwelling on anything that could be seen as exploitative, and it's only when the revenge starts to be executed that things become viscerally entertaining.

There are so many movies that you could choose to watch from the "rape revenge" subgenre, and yes it is a subgenre, but few of them are made with quite the same level of relative restraint and genuine interest in the character beyond showing them as a beauty to be broken and destroyed. If you have the stomach for it, this is a superior example, and that may be due in no small part to the fact that it is a woman at the helm, providing a different filter on the material.

8/10

Americans can buy it here.


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