'Revenge' Review: A Bloody, Merciless, Empowering Directorial Debut By Coralie Fargeat

There's an endless supply of revenge thrillers in cinema, and among them are also plenty of thrillers about a woman who wants retaliation after being raped by a man. That's exactly what Revenge delivers, but what makes this particular thriller stand out is that it hails from first-time French filmmaker Coralie Fargeat, bringing a refreshing female perspective to the proceedings that is not only empowering, but also downright bloody and merciless in its literal and figurative execution.

Revenge follows Matilda Lutz (Rings) as Jen, a young woman who has just arrived by helicopter to a luxurious, secluded vacation home in the middle of the desert. Her rich, handsome boyfriend Richard (Kevin Janssens) has brought her out here for some adulterous fun away from his wife before his hunting buddies show up for their traditional weekend of bro-hard gamesmanship.

It might seem surprising that a female filmmaker is behind this movie when you see the opening of this movie. Jen struts out of the helicopter like she's in a music video directed by Michael Bay. Her body sways in slow-motion as the camera ogles every curve. The sun shines behind her, demanding her pop sunglasses as she seductively sucks on a lollipop as her shiny, pink star earrings dangle. Her name might as well be Lolita. But this is all part of Coralie Fargeat's plan to lure you in.

Caught up in the allure of Jen are the weasely Stan (Vincent Colombe) and the uncouth Dimitri (Guillaume Bouchède), who show up to Richard's house early for their hunting trip. They're exactly the kind of men who can't help but ogle her as she walks around the house in booty shorts and a t-shirt following her night of debauchery with Richard. So of course they're completely entranced when Jen decides to to dance provocatively near the pool that evening, even inviting Stan to come join her. And this is where the all-too important female perspective comes into play.

The next morning, Stan has taken Jen's dance activities as a clear indication that she wants him to have his way with her. So Stan takes it as a slight to his character when she turns down his more direct sexual advances. This leads to Stan raping Jen. Meanwhile, Dimitri is a stand-in for anyone who has ever allowed these transgressions to take place, as he walks in on the act as he disgustingly chomps on bite-size candy bars. It's a moment that is all too perfectly representative of the years of inappropriate behavior that launched the #MeToo movement. Just like with all the the sleazebags who perpetuated this plague in Hollywood, there's a storm coming for these men.

Even after Richard learns of this violation of Jen, he turns out to be anything but sympathetic, only worried about the consequences he could endure, both legally and personally. It all comes to a head when Jen threatens to tell Richard's wife, prompting a hard slap that kicks off a chase through the desert that ends with her getting pushed off a cliff, impaled on a dead tree in the middle of nowhere. But this is merely the beginning of our story.

Revenge Review

What follows is Jen's gruesome yet determined rise from a gnarly, blood-soaked near-death experience to get vengeance on all three of these men. Though Jen's wits and resourcefulness are enough to keep her going against all odds, you can't help but cringe at her continued pain as she pries herself off the tree, drags her feet through the desert, drips blood all over the place and tries to survive the night as the three men track her down to finish the job. Revenge is brutal and relentless, but it's all in service of a powerful rise from literal ashes.

As soon as Jen is able to seal her wound with a makeshift brand from a big Mexican beer can, we're witness to a phoenix rising. It's almost mythical, mostly because it all unfolds in the haze of a peyote fever dream. What follows is an unforgiving pursuit of justice as our heroine turns the tables on her predators by making them the prey. Jen wears only a sports bra and tight-hugging athletic shorts cover her body, accentuated by a belt of bullets and a powerful gun, adding an exploitation flick feel to the events. That vibe is only heightened by the pulsing, entrancing synth score by Robin Coudert that wouldn't be out of place in a 1980s slasher.

Jen becomes like John McClane, her body getting more bloody, bruised and dirty along the way. But she's not the only one who gets splattered with dirt and blood. There are gallons of red corn syrup to go around, so much that you have to wonder if humans actually have this much blood inside them. Fargeat makes you cringe as this blood splatters, leaks and smears, the color popping in the stunning, saturated cinematography of Robrecht Heyvaert.

Despite the thrills, Revenge still has a little too thin of a premise and a runtime that slightly overstays its welcome. As entertaining as all the blood-soaked, unsettling violence might be as we root for Jen's triumph, the third act feels like it goes on just a tad too long. But even so, this cold dish of Revenge is quite the entrée.

Revenge hits theaters and VOD on May 11, 2018 and debuts on Shudder this fall. Watch the trailer here./Film rating 8 out of 10