Who doesn’t love a good revenge film ? Whether it be a jilted lover, a double-cross, or the murder of a loved one, the protagonist in a good revenge based story often has a clear singular vision, and it can be a great drive for the audience to grab on to. The recent ‘Gone Girl’ got me thinking about these kinds of stories, as this tale boils down to a disgruntled wife who creates an incredible web to get revenge on a husband she clearly despises. How elaborate and sinister her plan manifests itself is what is so enthralling about this film.
Now, there are many films that could fit into this category, and many various ways any protagonist will go about to get their revenge. It might be as silly as the premise of ’John Tucker Must Die’ where several high school girls realize they are all being cheated on by the same guy, and then they hatch a scheme to get back at him for his philandering. Yes, it’s petty, but in the end it’s all about getting revenge plain and simple. The other end of the spectrum is a tale based in history, and one of the better recent examples of this is ‘Munich’, the Steven Spielberg directed film. This deals with the true incident of Israeli athletes who were taken hostage & assassinated during the 1972 Olympics in Munich. The retribution that follows by the Israeli Mossad agents is brutal, but as an audience member you understand completely why these men and women are doing it, and some might even consider it a noble cause. Vengeance for fallen countrymen fuels their efforts.
The most effective and best told stories of revenge I find are ones that involve a very close friend or family member, where there is a personal connection with the protagonist. In the film ‘Unforgiven’ directed and starring Clint Eastwood, he plays William Munny, an aging outlaw killer who loses his dear friend Ned in their attempt to earn money as hired gunmen. His confrontation with Ned’s killer is electric, and is one of the best scenes in the film, especially after you’ve spent the bulk of the story enjoying the history and friendship these two had. “I’ve killed women and children, killed just about everything that walked or crawled at one time or another, and I’m here to kill you Little Bill”. This act of revenge has a transformative effect, and by owning his past, he becomes the cold-hearted killer he once was. The more recent U.K. film ‘Harry Brown’ deals with an older man who also loses a dear friend, but the circumstances are entirely different. Taking place in the modern era, this is just as much a social commentary on the rise in crime as it is a classic revenge story. Harry Brown, played by Michael Caine, is dealing with his older age, the loss of his wife to ill health, and the loss of his dear friend to the rising criminal element which is brazen and extremely violent. Pulling from his past experience as a soldier, Browne systematically takes down his friends killers one by one, in a most violent fashion, and with no mercy. The tag line for the film is appropriate – “Every Man Has a Breaking Point”.
In ‘X MEN: First Class’ Magneto is arguably the most interesting character in the film, and not just because of the great casting of Michael Fassbender. He has the clearest and most emotionally charged goal in the story of finding his mothers killer, and the film opens with his backstory interned in a Nazi concentration camp. When he finally catches the ex-Nazi Sebastian Shaw, the tool of his revenge is brilliant – a coin. His inability to move this very same coin decades ago with his un-formed magnetic abilities (after being ordered to do so by Shaw) is the reason his mother is killed. So the cause of his mothers death, becomes the instrument of Shaw’s death, and the scene plays out beautifully. ‘Mad Max’, the first in the trilogy of films, is another great tale of love lost amidst the decay and moral breakdown of society just before the Apocalypse engulfs the world. Much of the film is spent with Max Rockatansky and his police cohorts trying to stem the tide of anarchy and crime, but you also get to see him spend time with his wife and baby son, the anchor and stability in his life. Once those two worlds collide, and his wife and child are killed, Max is cast adrift. He has nothing to live for and revenge plays a corruptive all engulfing force – once he sets down this path, there is no turning back. Mad Max becomes “A shell of a man, a burnt out desolate man.”
- Nathan Stanton