Coralie Fargeat swings for the fences with her first feature film Revenge, a brutal shocker that joins a long line of rape-revenge thrillers. Structurally speaking, it’s very familiar to those that came before it—rape and revenge are its main ingredients after all—yet Fargeat’s film feels like something entirely different. Revenge leaves the sleazy exploitative nature of its counterparts in the dust, making new way for a stylized guts-n-glory take on a sub-genre that desperately needed a new look. In it, Jen’s getaway with her lover turns violent after a shocking act leaves her left for dead.
Revenge is such a fascinating movie to me because not only does it kick every bit of ass as its title would suggest, but it practically perfects the very genre that inspired it, even after all these years. We’ve seen this before—girl gets raped, girl gets revenge—but there’s something different about Fargeat’s film. The way it slithers through the narrative with so much style and grace makes this one feel like an entirely different beast.
It’s not an easy genre to watch (or get into, really) and I’ve never been much of a fan of it myself, but I think a lot of that has to do with the fact that there just aren’t many good movies to pull from—they’re mostly sleazy trash that shock for the sake of shocking. Granted, when a film is billed as rape-revenge, that kind of comes with the territory—it’s still no reason why they can’t be good, though. And Fargeat’s film breaks that mold in an exciting way by abandoning a lot of the tropes that make these films such a chore to sit through.
It’s this cool-as-hell, hyper-stylized dose of mayhem that will make you squirm every chance it gets. And it’s all led by the stunningly talented Matilda Lutz, who turns in a powerhouse performance as Jen. Her character hardly says a word after the first act, but it’s her actions—and the intensity behind them—that tell us everything we need to know; this chick is out for blood. And one of the more unique things about the film is how Fargeat visualizes the evolution of Jen throughout the story. It’s almost supernatural in a way because she completely transforms the character both mentally and physically.
When we first meet her, she’s an overly sexualized and exploited one-dimensional character. It’s so on the nose too, that I was already prepared to hate the movie because it was doing exactly what I despise about this genre—the camera is basically glued to her ass for the entire first act and it’s like, okay, I get it, she’s hot! But that quickly fades away—once shit hits the fan—and what returns is a powerful woman that has so many layers, and most importantly, one that has no problem stabbing dudes in the face under the blazing heat of a sun-scorched desert.
It takes a minute for Revenge to really get going, but once it does it’s a gnarly and wholly satisfying thriller that hits all the right notes for a film in this genre. It’s brutal in all of the right ways and its subject matter is handled with care thanks to Fargeat’s precise and stylized direction. But its best quality outside of the amazing and gruesome practical effects, is the fact that Revenge does more than just breathe new life into a tired genre, it kicks its ass.