Revenge ★★★★


Although it remains a somewhat contentious subgenre, the rape-revenge thriller has a rich (if not exactly respectable) pedigree, extending back to seminal exploitation features like 'Thriller: A Cruel Picture' (1973), 'I Spit on Your Grave' (1978), and 'Ms. 45' (1981). Frankly if awkwardly feminist, such films appropriate violence from the male aggressor and direct it back into his piggish, arrogant face. Notwithstanding the occasional attempt to impart some Hollywood respectability to the category ('The Brave One') or even to put an avant-garde spin on it ('Dogville'), the rape-revenge picture has a streak of unabashed nastiness that it is usually better embraced than stifled. Filmmakers Jen and Sylvia Soska apprehended as much in their blackly comic and explicitly feminist take on the subgenre, 'American Mary' (2012) – a feature that is a bloody good time, if not exactly good.

Like the Soskas’ film, French director Coralie Fargeat’s awesomely grimy and gory debut feature, 'Revenge', benefits immensely from having a woman at the helm. Fargeat evinces an uncanny understanding of the male gaze, to the point that she can mimic it perfectly, but she also knows how to pervert it for her tonal and thematic purposes. 'Revenge' is a feature that is fluent in the classical vocabulary of the male-directed exploitation pictures of old – although here that language has metamorphosed into a post-Michael Bay patois. Such films were ultimately designed to arouse male audience members in a mildly transgressive way. However, those viewers are merely the collateral damage in 'Revenge', which is foremost a hyper-real fantasy of righteous Amazonian retribution...

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