Revenge movie review: Coralie Fargeat's ferocious rape-revenge drama doesn't pull back its punches

Anupam Kant Verma

June 08, 2018 15:23:56 IST

4/5

Revenge, Coralie Fargeat’s directorial debut, is a ferocious, crazed, drug-addled, frenzied, big angry slobbery monster of a film that waves its bruised middle finger at faux-sincere drivel and effete attempts at intellectualisation. For those used to the ersatz warmth of categorisation into neat, little boxes, it can be termed as a rape-revenge, exploitation thriller. But it is simply a film that does not have the time to give a fuck. It steamrolls forward in a hypnotic rhythm, flailing and faulting like its ill-starred heroine, wearing its narrative thinness on its sleeve (or belly, as the viewers will notice), wagging tongues and drooling lips on its way towards affording its spellbound audience the gratituous, primal pleasure of revenge. It leaves it to its viewers to count the film influences, lap up the trail of blood and bury their faces deep into the continent of flesh and bone that Fargeat maps for them.

A still from Revenge. Netflix

A still from Revenge. Netflix

Richard, of chiseled abdomen and smug, razor-sharp jawline, has flown into his multi-million dollar desert getaway. Accompanying him is Jen, whom Fargeat frames in mid and low angles to bring out her fleshly assets in all their glory. Stan and Dimitri, one loathsome, the other slothful, are everymen out to accompany the glorious looking Richard on his annual, seemingly ritualistic hunt. Before long, Stan gives in to his animal impulse driven by male authority and rapes Jen while Richard is away. Richard sides with Jen on his return and decides to kill her to end the issue once and for all. Their plan goes awry when Jen survives a bloody, backbreaking push from a cliff and decides to avenge herself.

Throughout, the film is drenched in colour and shapes that reek of lust, grandeur and objectification. In the beginning, everything in the house and environs is spanking clean, lit up by garish, vivid colours. Jen walks within these walls and beyond as the perfectly shaped male object of desire. The men’s gazes follow her every step with soiled reverence and naked lust. She even seems to enjoy the objectification and worship of her ass that Richard seems to thrive in mouthing again and again. Fargeat has the ultimate exploitation set-up ready at hand. Soon, she throws the dynamite sticks into the mix and presses the button.

And how it blows up into the audience’s faces smack — punishing, dirty and angry. No, our heroine is no soldier. She has to learn everything on its way. Richard will stop at nothing to wipe her out; and unlike his cronies, will hardly pause to drowse in a moment of poignant self reflection. The stakes are high. Our heroine’s transmutation from the sexy, shapely, flirty male object of desire to the torn-clothed badass girl-object is now imminent. Fargeat throws in a hallucinatory moment of transition inside a cave fueled by a miracle drug into the mix. Jen self-cauterises with a Mexican beer can, waking up to an image of a phoenix in wing burnt into her belly. Prepare yourselves, hell awaits those who have scorned her.

In a film so deeply sunk in the underbelly of genre, Fargeat unleashes volley upon volley of pain at her heroine. It is Jen’s road through purgatory strewn with thorns. This is how it is for our lot, Fargeat screams at the viewer. And it is one hell of a scream, stretched taut across the length of the desert where Jen and Richard play out their cat and mouse game for the viewer’s pleasure. But this is not merely a scream for attention. This is revolt. These guns, these objects of fetishisation put together by a gender unashamedly avowing its self-declared right to power, shall turn their wrath upon them. There is no genuflecting to crafting intricate meshes of stories to prove the point, no pruning the hedges of dense intellectualisation fertilized by snobbery. This is Fargeat, picking up the camera, turning its crosshairs towards the audience and shooting the hell out of their nebulous morality and crappy ideals. She takes the tools of the genre, picks apart all its elements and throws them back at the establishment like a sharp blade aimed straight at the jugular.

So, dear viewer, prepare for an assault. A mad ambush. By the time Jen and Richard are finished going for each other’s throats in the labyrinth of his house, blood will spatter across the walls, he would now be naked and prostate; it will all have been turned over. No bloodless revolution, this. More a violent manifesto that, even when it burns, will singe with its ashes getting in your eyes, leaving the audience enthralled and violated. This is Fargeat’s cinema of blood, sweat and tears. Bring along your boxing gloves.

Revenge is currently streaming on Netflix.

Updated Date: Jun 08, 2018 15:28 PM