11th May2018

‘Revenge’ Review

by Matthew Turner

Stars: Matilda Anna Ingrid Lutz, Kevin Janssens, Vincent Colombe, Guillaume Bouchède | Written and Directed by Coralie Fargeat


French writer-director Coralie Fargeat makes a spectacular debut with Revenge, a stylish and super-violent thriller that brings a female perspective to the rape revenge genre and delivers a powerful kick to the unmentionables in the process.

The film’s take-no-prisoners attitude is perfectly summed up by its ingenious trailer, which intersperses clips from the film with actual online comments from disgruntled men about the film, with the tag-line “Coming for the haters”.

The plot is ridiculously simple. Married businessman Richard (Kevin Janssens) and his younger mistress Jen (Matilda Anna Ingrid Lutz) arrive at a luxury retreat in a remote desert location (it was filmed in Morocco) for a spot of debauchery before Richard’s planned hunting trip. However, their fun and frolics are cut short when Richard’s two sleazy buddies, Stan (Vincent Colombe) and Dimitri (Guillaume Bouchede), arrive earlier than planned.

The next morning, emboldened by her flirtatious dancing the night before, Stan comes onto Jen, but she rejects him, so he rapes her, with Dmitri dopily observing the assault, but failing to intervene. When Richard returns, Jen angrily protests, but her lover doesn’t react the way she expects and after the situation escalates, she’s callously left for dead in the desert. However, seemingly resurrected by her own fiery desire for revenge, Jen survives and stalks each man in turn, enacting violent and bloody retribution.

Fargeat is clearly au fait with the genre and she knowingly exploits its various tropes throughout, adding inspired little touches like Dmitri repulsively chewing a mouthful of chocolate as he turns away from the rape. She also doesn’t skimp on the red stuff, ensuring that each kill comes with an almost cartoonish level of blood and splatter, while still retaining a visceral impact commensurate with recent French horror flicks like Inside or High Tension.

There’s very little dialogue, but the film barely needs any once it gets down to business and Fargeat proves adept at cranking up tension as Jen stalks her prey, all of which is paid off beautifully in the film’s final act, with a bravura set piece that takes place in Richard’s luxury retreat. This, in turn, provides another amusing example of table turning, as Richard is taking a shower when his stalker arrives and is forced to fend for himself in the altogether.

As reflected in the film’s marketing campaign, Revenge is fully aware of its own perspective and takes a series of well-aimed jabs at toxic masculinity, entitlement and objectification, not least in the shocking callousness inherent in the film’s pivotal betrayal. It’s not above hammering its points home, either – Jen’s supposedly fatal wound is winkingly symbolic in that regard.

The performances are excellent. Lutz makes a terrific lead, coolly pivoting from the deliberately Lolita-esque figure (complete with heart-shaped glasses, lollipop and star-shaped earrings) she cuts in the opening scenes to a formidable figure of fury and firepower. Similarly, Janssens is exactly the type of arrogant bastard whose death you actively look forward to, while Colombe and Bouchede are suitably grotesque as his slimeball buddies.

Revenge is further elevated by Fargeat’s achingly stylish direction, which makes full use of both the gorgeous desert locations (beautifully shot by superbly named cinematographer Robrecht Heyvaert) and some magnificent production design on the luxury house, including brightly coloured stained-glass windows that provide their own distinctive filters. There’s also a superb electronic score that proves the icing on an already delicious cake.

Provocative, gleefully violent and saturated with style, Revenge is a thrilling debut that’s a treat for genre fans and marks out writer-director Fargeat as a serious talent to watch.

**** 4/5

Revenge is on limited release across the UK now.

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