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Vengeance: A Love Story

USA 2017
produced by
Michael Mendelsohn, Nicolas Cage, Harold Becker (executive), Michael Nilon (executive), Richard Rionda Del Castro (executive), Patricia Eberle (executive) for Patriot Pictures, Saturn Films, FilmRise, Hannibal Classics
directed by Johnny Martin
starring Nicolas Cage, Anna Hutchison, Talitha Eliana Bateman, Deborah Kara Unger, Don Johnson, Joshua Mikel, Rocco Nugent, Joe Ochterbeck, Carter Burch, Charlene Tilton, Dikran Tulaine, Kara Flowers, Jimmy Gonzales, Cory Scott Allen, Mike Pniewski, Kaleigh Rivera, Xavier Declie, Michael Papajohn, Aislin Freya Pax, Elijah Marcano, Nicole Barré, Natalie Shaheen, Michelle Davidson, Dan Kleckner, Jwaundace Candece, Elizabeth Hunter, Kaitlyn Dillard, Carlos Guerrero, Marc Coppola, Shirley Martin, Alphie Hyorth, Dwayne Boyd, Bernardo Peña, Emily Sandifer, Rey Hernandez, Keith Arthur Bolden, Steve Vernon, Elise DuQuette, Lorraine Rodriguez-Reyes, Elena Sanchez, Jenny Martin, Deborah Swallow
written by John Mankiewicz, based on the novel Rape: A Love Story by Joyce Carol Oates, music by Frederik Wiedmann

review by
Mike Haberfelner

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Detective John Dromoor (Nicolas Cage) had only met Teena (Anna Hutchison) once before, when she gave him some solace in a bar when he tried to drink his sorrows away - and then he finds her in a shack, brutally beaten up and left to die ... which she would have, too, after a savage gang rape, if her daughter Bethie (Talitha Bateman), who was forced to watch the whole thing from a hiding place, hadn't run to the street and hailed the police car down. It seems the police are in luck though, the rapists have pretty much left more evidence at the scene of the crime than the police could have ever dreamed of, including finger prints, DNA samples and the like. So with all of this, with and with Teena's testimony, it should be an open-and-shut case, right? Well, wrong, as the mother (Charlene Tilton) of two of the rapists hires a top lawyer, Kirkpatrick (Don Johnson) to defend her sons - and since all this happened in a village heavily dependent on tourism, most of the locals would love to hush up something as vile as a gangrape to not scare the guests away. On top of that, Teena is still shell-shocked, and can one blame her, so the first hearing is pretty much a triumph for the perpetrators. From here on, the rapists and their families start to terrorize Teena and Bethie in more or less subtle ways that are always just inside of the law. But Detective Dromoor watches over Teena, and he sees what's going on, and the more obvious it becomes that Teena (and with it law itself) will lose the case, the more he sees the urge to act outside the law to exact justice - even if that means shooting a few men in cold blood ...

 

Only at first glance, Vengeance: A Love Story appears to be a rather reactionary story about almost biblical revenge, while it's really much more of a character piece, not spending too much time on the titular vengeance per se and much more on the circumstances that lead to it, on the post traumatic torment of both Teena and Bethie, and the broken psyche of Dromoor, who more than anything else seeks salvation in his acts of retaliation. And the film also goes into detail about the circumstances that lead to Dromoor's actions, in a way that might explain them but not justify them as such. So in short, this is a multi-layered drama more than a rape-revenge flick, and it's carried by a strong ensemble cast, with a for a change rather restrained Nicolas Cage filling his character rather wonderfully.

 

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review © by Mike Haberfelner

 

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