If your boyfriend invites you to a remote villa in the middle of the desert, don’t go. That’s the moral of Revenge, a French language blood-soaked rape revenge thriller from writer-director Coralie Fargeat.
Jen (Matilda Lutz) thinks she is spending some quality bikini time with her married lover, Richard (Kevin Janssens), who has invited two other guys to go hunting with him. There is a pre-hunt pool party. Sexually confident Jen dances with one of Richard’s friends. When Richard is out the next morning (fetching the paper, I dunno), Lascivious Lump One gets the wrong idea and is left to it by Lascivious Lump Two. When Richard gets home, Jen hopes for retribution. But errant males stick together. Jen runs for it, is pursued to a cliff edge and meets a grisly demise. Except she isn’t dead – (almost) broken-backed, but not broken-spirited, Jen fights back.
Don’t expect Shakespeare, or even Moliere (it is French after all). But Revenge is as visceral as cinema gets, slick and bloody – very bloody. The finale is, quite literally, a trail of blood.
As desert-based action films go, it is edge of seat stuff. You check your disbelief at the concession stand because you want Jen to have her revenge.
As far as subtext goes, there isn’t any. Revenge was made prior to the explosion of the #MeToo movement. Its nearest cousin is The Last House on the Left, but unlike rape revenge films made by guys, this one does not give the viewer the hypocritical and vicarious ‘thrill’ of an explicit rape scene – the act is suggested but not shown.
The ‘fun’ aspect of the film comes from the dwindling group of guys getting frustrated as Jen triumphs against them. Fargeat invites whoops and hollars. The purpose of the film is for female appreciation to shout down men, to end once and for all the idea that rape is acceptable.
If Revenge has its intended impact, then the audience response in the final hour and a bit of the film will be vocal and unequivocal. The best screenings – and I suspect these will be held at London’s Prince Charles cinema – will encourage participation as the revenge kicks in.