This, in case you can’t tell from the title, is a violent revenge thriller!
Jennifer (Matilda Anna Ingrid Lutz) is brought by Richard (Kevin Janssens) to his swanky country retreat for some “alone time”, away from his wife, and all appears to be perfect for both of them. However, when Richard’s hunting friends Stan (Vincent Colombe) and Dmitri (Guillaume Bouchede) turn up early, the dynamics and the direction of the film, changes wildly.
With Richard out of the house for a while Stan forces himself upon Jennifer. Richard returns and, finding Jen upset and threatening to tell his wife everything, Richard makes a radical decision and turns on her, resulting in Jen running out of the house chased by all 3 men. Cue a confrontation, a seeming resolution and Jennifer left for dead.
But, like a phoenix rising from the ashes, Jen returns as a vengeful spirit and is not going to relent. As the men set out with their hunting gear they are not the only ones with an agenda.
Revenge on the outside is a gorgeously shot film, taking in the wide desert vistas and incredible close-ups of the main characters, and I found myself thinking of The Bad Batch at times, especially with a seemingly innocuous female protagonist. On top of this it is also brutally visceral when it gets going, with gore aplenty which sometimes stretches the boundaries of belief as to why these people are still alive and functioning properly or indeed at all with the amount of blood being spilled! But if you manage to suspend that disbelief, there is a lot to like about this film in the writing, characters and the events unfolding.
A lot has been said already about the turn around in focus, from male to female gaze, as we reach towards the conclusion: the hunter becomes the hunted and the objectifier becomes the object. Jen really does take the initiative in a way that isn’t seen too often on the big screen, being resourceful and utterly focused on her goal. Director Coralie Fargeat, who also has a screenwriting credit here, handles the theme and tone perfectly, maintaining a good amount of tension on top of the action and some great surprise moments.
Matilda Anna Ingrid Lutz is superb in her twin roles of seductress and avenger, turning everything on its head in the most remarkable way. Kevin Janssens (The Ardennes) is also perfectly cast as the self possessed, and centred, Richard. Looking smooth and controlling of his life, wife, friends and getting away with anything that he wants to. This is not a nice man. Stan and Dmitri are more like the comic relief, providing a tension release amongst the fierceness happening all around.
Personally I would have preferred a more realistic affair, replete with the revenge that was deserved, just less of the more fantastical moments that took away some of the weight behind it, giving it a more fictional than factual feel, lessening the impact of Jennifer’s fightback. That being said, it feels like it is a fantastic update of the French New Extreme period of the late 90s and early 2000s (films like Switchblade Romance, Inside). With no qualms with showing anything on screen and with this alongside Julia Ducournau’s Raw there are some real talents out there willing to put women front and centre, no matter the content or story.