Plot: John (Nicolas Cage) is at a tavern when he is approached by a drunk woman, who throws herself at him, but John is quite taken with her. Down the road, the woman Teena (Anna Hutchison) is once again drunk and flirtatious, this time at a Fourth of July party she attends with her daughter, Bethie (Talitha Eliana Bateman). Bethie is beyond ashamed of her mother’s behavior, but tries to look out for her and soon, the two head back home. But after a shortcut leaves them isolated and alone, a group of men show up and attack Teena. She is beaten and brutally raped, then left for dead, all while Bethie looks on helpless and horrified. While Bethie is able to identify the rapists, a high powered defense attorney is brought in and the legal case seems shaky at best. This prompts John pursue his own brand of justice.
Entertainment Value: Based on the book Rape: A Love Story, Vengeance veers from the source material more than a little and places the focus on the vigilante aspect of the narrative. The end result is a dark, often bleak look at human behavior and our fractured legal system. A lot of vigilante movies dial up the action and violence, but Vengeance is a more grounded, restrained take. I know, the words restrained and Nicolas Cage aren’t often in the same social circles, but that is certainly the case here. The movie takes a deliberate, fairly realistic approach and while the vigilante element is of course somewhat of a reach, some explanation is offered there. Cage’s performance is solid and he doesn’t go off the deep end in the least here. This is good news if you prefer a more stable, traditional performance, but it is also a lot of fun to watch him go unhinged, as we all know. I appreciated his understated work here however, as it suited the material and added a lot to the movie. Anna Hutchison is also quite good here, but Talitha Eliana Bateman steals some scenes as well. Don Johnson is also capable as a slimy lawyer, in one of his better recent efforts. I think Vengeance is a solid thriller, one that takes a more realistic approach to the topic of rape and how society/law officials view it, while also providing some vigilante justice.
No nakedness. The movie has a rape scene and it is intense, but it is more violent than sexual in nature. The camera sees the assault from a distance and breaks from the attack often, to reinforce that the victim’s daughter is a witness. The movie has minimal blood involved, despite some bursts of violence. The rape scene is indeed brutal and intense, but isn’t shown in detail, while the assorted gun shots and such have minor splashes of red times, but not much. The lack of bloodshed doesn’t detract from the violence though, it is still intense and effective. I found the writing to be good, crafting a grounded, but still gritty atmosphere. At the same time, the more restrained approach means no wild, out of hand dialogue, even from Cage. But the low score doesn’t reflect on the quality of the script, just the lack of outlandish or memorable lines. Not much craziness in this one and that makes sense, as this is again a more understated experience.
Overall Insanity: 0/10
The Disc: FilmRise has released Vengeance on Blu-ray in a rock solid visual treatment, via MVD Entertainment. The movie looks great in high definition, super clean and with the kind of detail you’d expect. I found colors to be natural and bright, contrast is smooth, and as I said, depth is impressive. This is the best looking version of Vengeance I’ve seen, so this is the one you’ll want in your collection.
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