It has been factually proven that we as, human beings, contain 1.2 to 1.5 gallons of blood in our bodies. Coralie Fargeat challenges that notion with a stylish and taut thriller that has its characters spewing blood at a rate that makes Tarantino look PG-13. Though she mimics that level of violence that he’s known for, “Revenge” has much more of a social relevant flair than most, if not all, of Tarantino’s filmography. It’s one fantastical journey that allows those affected by the recent trends of sweeping feminist justice to live vicariously through another woman as she gives out blood-soaked, and stylishly framed “Revenge” upon those who done her wrong.
It’s not all originality and praises though, beginning the film with a familiarized framing of the female gender. With long and close shots of Jen's (Matilda Lutz) butt as she ganders around the house with little to no clothes on, or continuously painting the picture of her character as purely sexualized. It was simple to think this was another man’s dirty fantasies being placed on the screen, but it's a woman’s take this time around, which is why these sequences of sexualized framings fall distant to the brutality that is about to take place.
Before we get to the good stuff, Jen (Matilda Lutz) gets framed as the ditzy and beautiful blonde woman. She’s the beck and call of the rich man whose wife is unaware of his romantic getaways with this “smoking hot” babe. (Ehh, just saying those words is gross enough) It’s all fun and games too, with her showing herself off to his friends, even grinding on one of them the night before our revenge plot begins to take hold. Her sexual outings though, seem to have sparked the idea in one of his friends', Stan (Vincent Colombe), head that the sexy dancing wasn’t for the hunk she’s with, but for him. It was all for him, and if she refuses to sleep with him, then it's her fault for being a tease.
It’s a segment that speaks loudly to those of us who support every single legitimate victim and worthy repercussion of the recent movements for woman, this is the sequences of actions that become the fault of the woman for wearing too little of clothing, or being at fault for teasing a man and then not devoting herself to him. It’s blaming her flirtations for his sexual frustrations, but what happens next has one man to blame and one woman to console.
In a numbified and almost obsessive manner, the next morning Stan (Vincent Colombe), stares at her. Continually thinking she’s going to jump on top of him and rip his clothes off, but last night was a show for one man, and it wasn’t for Stan (Vincent Colombe). In a rage-filled manner, he pushes her up against a window and rips her underwear off, forcing himself upon her. The one time the camera strays away from obscene visuals, and rightfully so. We, the audience, don’t need to see the appalling events taking place inside that room, but we feel the weight of them. The hunk returns home and offers to silence her with money and a getaway trip to Canada, but she’ll have none of it. In a fit of rage, he slaps her, causing a chase through the desert to ensue with a finale that brings the first act to a close with a question.
Do you still want to believe this? Could she survive such a fate? Is this all too ridiculous for you to get behind? Why couldn’t she survive it? What makes her survival different from the male bravado action hero surviving abnormal feats? If your like me, and never bought into Schwarzenegger surviving the countless amount of things he did when he was depicting a regular man and not the cybernetic organism, or always laughed at the idea of Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson surviving a 70ft fall onto a car in “Furious 7,” then you might find yourself unable to leap from the bridge of realism to fictionality as smoothly as this film needs you to.
It relies entirely on you believing in this first act decision because if you do, “Revenge” becomes a knockout and drag em’ out brawl of a story that jolts you out of your seat. The blood bursts from every stroke of revenge set loose by our female heroine, and the men become the prey of this cat and mouse game. It’s a vicarious adventure that any woman activist can live through and feel the cathartic release as we feel the tactile emotions of justice be served by female badassery that is equivalent to a Ripley or a Sarah Connor.
However, if you're like me and get stuck at this point like that of an invisible wall has arisen in front of you, keeping you from ever resonating with that of the action taking place, then “Revenge” may feel like a longer watch than it should. For me, it was like eating something that is incredibly delicious and different, but there are parts of it that continue to get stuck to the roof of your mouth. Unable to focus on the delightful taste, because your so busy trying to detach these nuisances. That same feeling can be applied to “Revenge” in which there is a multitude of things that I enjoyed ranging from style to performance, but the leaps of believability in the screenwriting kept me from leaping off into the depths of the narrative.
That style is something to behold though, as Coralie Fargeat and her cinematographer, Robrecht Heyvaert, visualize a story with a grungy taste. It’s rusty and saturated array of color is backed up by constant edits that pace the tale with an adrenaline spike of energy. Not to mention the immensely and meticulously crafted sound design by Eric Mauer. With long engaged sequences of slow motion in which every drop of blood sounds and feels like a droplet of rain the size of Manhattan. Massive thuds of blood pounding into the sandy floor, drowning any kind of insect that is crawling around.
This stylish craftsmanship is one of the best aspects of “Revenge,” and it assists in the action as well with the littlest of sound being amplified like the crinkling of an empty water bottle or the ricocheting of a gun. It all lends to the film feeling vibrantly manifested, minus a drug inducing sequence that feels far more like I’ve been given the drugs instead of the character on-screen, which may have been the point.
Matilda Lutz and her fellow male co-stars squeeze out a lot of blood, but they pour out emotion with as little to go off of as we did at the beginning of this action-packed thriller. Speaking almost entirely in French, Kevin Janssens delivers a performance that harkens back to the good villains of the eighties. He’s cunning but arrogant, and he has everything under control, at least he thinks he does. He’s far too prideful to admit that he doesn’t, I mean what man would want to be upstaged by a girl in a fight?
He’s that kind of prick who thinks that something like that would be far more shaming than being supportive of his rapist friend whose laughable stupidity creates a character that goes through the most cringy of sequences, in a good way. In the midst of chasing down the revived woman whose scorn has been let loose, she smashes a flashlight against a rock, spreading the glass all over the sand. Unbeknownst to our rapist, he woundedly sprints after her and then finds himself slicing open his foot in a gory riddle scene that is sure to make even the most experienced of film fans feel a bit queasy and skirmish.
Rivaling grotesque riddled films like “Green Room,” “Revenge” can become quite the glorified abuser of film violence, but this film is not carried by its action as much as it is its star. Matilda Lutz depicts a character with little to no dialogue, but one that changes entirely over the course of the film. Going from the damsel-in-distress to the damsel with a gun and a bitch of an attitude. It’s an incredibly empowering thing to see that makes me excited for the future of female filmmaking, and the potentially bright future of Coralie Fargeat.
If only she didn’t go to the well of unbelievability so many times, she might have had a masterpiece on her hand the first go around, and for some, she’s done just that. Taking the premise of the tragic misfires of female revenge stories like “I Spit on Your Grave” and “Lady Snowblood,” and manifesting a stylistically induced thriller with a story that perplexes me more than it surprises. “Revenge” is a genre film of the highest order, one that asks “are you still buying what I am selling you?” on a constant basis. I was unable to bring myself to answer yes more than half of the time, but when I did, I was left with a feeling of complete satisfaction, I think that's the same feeling my sister's of feminism felt when leaving the theater.