By Brendan Lee
VANCOUVER – With Revenge, Coralie Fargeat heats a rusted hunting knife beneath a blistering flame, flicks her wrist, and stabs the blade in the belly of a genre revitalized and repurposed for today’s modern era. From sexually exploitative beginnings to a slippery, blood-drenched finale, the film repulses, subverts, and ultimately succeeds in not only entertaining, but unsubtly forcing the audience to consider Hollywood’s portrayal of female characters through ultra-violence.
It’s Kill Bill meets Mad Max: Fury Road, and it’s coming for you.
The film begins in a testosterone-fueled fantasy, when hunky Richard (Kevin Janssens) and his lollipop mistress, Jen (Matilda Lutz), descend via helicopter to a Malibu-style vacation home amidst the desolate desert. We learn they’ve arrived early for Richard’s annual hunting getaway, that he’s brought Jen along for some fun and some sex before the rest of his buddies show up. Unplanned, the friends, Stan and Dimitri, arrive early and, quickly, they fall as voraciously in love with Jen’s body as Richard. Desire leads to violence leads to rape and a series of events that ends with Richard pushing Jen off a massive cliff, leaving her impaled, bleeding out, and surely dead.
From here it’s undeniable where the story must go. The males will pat each other’s backs, the female character will gasp, she’ll wake up, and there will be hell to pay. When the males return to dispose of her body, all they’ll find is a pool of blood soaked with dreaded inevitability. In other words: Jen’s Revenge.
There’s something satisfying about being in the hands of a filmmaker who expertly understands the genre. Like any great Tarantino film, the audience enjoys the movie for the ways in which it sets, meets, and eviscerates expectations, all the while sticking to formulas that never get old. Revenge does this, and while it might not manage to stand out in the same ways as a film like Kill Bill, it never really tries to, either. Visually and sonically, the film is a ten-course feast. Though somewhat limited by the necessity to adhere to genre standards, Fargeat manages to exhibit personality through interesting camera choices, compelling sound design, and the unabashed will to go above and beyond the gruesome.
Revenge exists on a current stage where the treatment of women has perhaps never been more scrutinized. In the film’s final confrontation, Richard screams in Jen’s face, says, “Women always have to put up a f*cking fight.” And it’s true, but not in the way the chauvinistic antagonist intends. Sick, sadistic, and unequivocally upset, with a statement like white-hot Revenge, Fargeat puts up the fight of her life.
Revenge can be seen on May 11, 12 and 13 at the Rio Theatre.