13th Sep2018

FSFF 2018: ‘Vengeance’ Review

by Phil Wheat

Stars: Stu Bennett, Gary Daniels, Keith Allen, Sean Blowers, Anna Shaffer, Bryan Larkin, Sapphire Elia, Kevin Leslie, James Fisher, Mark Griffin, Orion Lee, Wayne Gordon, Fleur Keith, Alan Calton | Written and Directed by Ross Boyask

vengeance-poster

When ex-soldier turned mercenary, John Gold (Bennett), learns of the murder of his best friend, he sets off on a mission to find out what happened. What he discovers is a sinister conspiracy and he sets about taking down those responsible one by one.

Since parting ways with the WWE, former superstar Stu Bennett (aka Wade Barrett) has turned his hand to a career as a movie hard man. First as the villain in the fantastic Scott Adkins movie Eliminators and now here in Vengeance – where he takes on a more heroic role. Well I say hero, but it’s more in the sense of a vengeful, single-minded anti-hero in the grand revenge-seeking tradition of Charles Bronson. It’s a character that plays on Bennett’s past as a wrestler – his persona there was that of a heel, but he was never a traditional “bad guy” – whilst being the antithesis of what audiences will, no doubt, expect given his previous genre effort.

Subverting expectations in much the same way, Bennett’s foil here, Gary Daniels, is much more more well-known – at least to the older generation of fight film fans – for playing the hero. So to see him, and Bennett for that matter, switch roles and embrace them so whole-heartedly, is refreshing. Daniels in particular makes for a far more compelling villain than the squeaky-clean hero he used to play in his DTV heyday.

Vengeance may feature red brick houses, well-manicured hedges and quaint cafes, but the setting for this film – the town of Devotion – is at its core like the Old West, a small British town gone to rack and ruin under the influence of a gang of mercenaries (in this case also turned local drug dealers), ruled by Hatcher (Daniels) rather than the law. And much like the very traditional, very American, cliche of the Western, our hero “rides” into town to clear the place up… And clear it up he does. Starting out somewhat vulnerable, Gold soon turns unstoppable killing machine as he ultimately storms Hatcher’s country manor, taking out any and all that stand in his way without hesitation, a la the Terminator.

I know, I know, I keep referencing American action movies when talking about Bennett’s latest genre film but that’s the thing, Vengeance may be a British action movie, however it certainly doesn’t feel like it and that’s definitely NOT a bad thing! For a British movie, Boyask’s film really plays on, and with, the tropes of the American action movie; which will do wonders for the film internationally. After all, I’m sure audiences are getting tired (I know I am) of the “East End gangster hard man” action movie cliches that filmmakers usually churn out in the typical British interpretation of the action movie.

Instead here we get a film that that respects the genre’s vast, and may I say beloved, past, whilst delivering a modern take on the traditional DTV action film. Plus, Vengeance goes a long to prove the argument that anything they (the Americans) can do we CAN do better. Though only a British action movie would scatter it’s script with a very dry, often sarcastic, sense of humour – with a wit that puts the one-liner quips of U.S. action movies to shame!

Obviously made by genre fans for genre fans, Vengeance is brilliant British butt-kicking bonanza that gives audiences not only a new action hero in Stu Bennett’s John Gold but, hopefully, a new and long-lasting BRITISH(!) action franchise.

***** 5/5

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