REVENGE is a brutal rape-revenge action movie written and directed by a woman who injects her hero-victim with a mythic will to survive.
French filmmaker Coralie Fargeat stylishly directs a female empowerment film filled with the bloody violence but without the excessive sadism of other more extreme rape-revenge movies.
The plot is simple and straightforward. A young mistress named Jen is raped by one of her wealthy French lover’s associates who has arrived early for a hunting trip.
When Jen refuses to accept hush money to keep the rape quiet, she faces the wrath of her lover Richard and flees into the desert. It’s a very “me too” movement moment, isn’t it? The attempt to secure a woman’s silence about abhorrent male behavior through intimidation or offers of money. It adds a deeper level of meaning to the film.
Anyway, Richard and his two associates chase and catch Jen at the edge of a cliff. Richard pushes Jen off the cliff, causing her to plunge to the bottom where she’s impaled by a tree. The violent penetration of Jen’s body is just one of the many ways Fargeat effectively uses symbolism. When the men return to dispose of Jen’s body, she has disappeared, leaving a trail of blood.
At the start, Matilda Lutz (in a breakout role) portrays Jen as a naïve, flirtatious, fun girl who walks around the house in skimpy outfits. The three men look at Jen as an object of desire to use for their pleasure, and she enjoys the attention. With an eye for detail, Fargeat captures the men’s gazes, which follow Jen around the swimming pool like perverts watching porn.
To me, the film initially explores the ridiculous assumption that because a woman dresses sexy or flirts with a man, she’s asking for trouble. No means no, and the man should accept the rejection without a violent response.
However, the rapist in REVENGE doesn’t accept “no,” and when the hunt begins for Jen, the film turns into a tense, violent game of hide and seek and kill.
What I like about Jen is she transforms into a gritty survivor who understands that if she wants to live, she must hunt down the three men before they hunt her down. Jen is not interested in torturing her attackers, which is often the focus of other rape-revenge movies. Jen just wants to go home.
Don’t get me wrong. REVENGE is drenched in blood, but the killings are not particularly creative or difficult to watch. Instead, Fargeat lingers on the wounds of the victims as if she’s more interested in the aftermath of the violence than the act of violence itself. A scene involving a foot was by far the most stomach-churning to me.
A rape-revenge movie can be difficult to view because of the horrific nature of the crime. The rape can cast a sickening pall over the remainder of the film. Why would anyone watch it?
I’ve asked myself the question because one of my favorite films is I SPIT ON YOUR GRAVE, which is much more extreme than REVENGE. The answer is twofold. It’s cathartic for me to see victims dispense justice in an unjust world and to see bad people suffer for their violent crimes.
REVENGE delivers on both counts, and I highly recommend it.
Check out the trailer on YouTube here.
REVENGE is rated R with a runtime of one hour and 48 minutes.
RATING: ♥ ♥ ♥ ½ (out of 4)
♦ ♦ ♦ ♦