Friday, July 29, 2022

Vengeance: Movie Review

Sharply written, hilariously astute and thoroughly entertaining.
Vengeance is a story about vengeance that very quickly gets turned on its head because it’s about so much more. The opening is pure comedy, B.J. Novak at his sit-com best. Ben (B.J. Novak) and a friend are chatting at a New York party about life, girls, podcasts, more girls, and more theorizing about life. Don’t worry you’re not supposed to like him; he’s a not bad guy but he does represent what everyone hates about New York writers – they think they’re better than everyone else. Especially Texans   2022

Directed by: B.J. Novak

Screenplay by: B.J. Novak

Starring: B.J. Novak, Issa Rae, Boyd Holbrook, Ashton Kutcher, J. Smith Cameron, Lio Tipton

Enter some native Texans. Ben receives a phone call in the middle of the night. “This is the worst phone call you’re ever going to receive. Your girlfriend is dead.” One problem: he doesn’t have a girlfriend. As Ty Shaw (Boyd Holbrook) goes on about his dead sister Abilene, Ben pieces together that she’s a girl he hooked up with a few times, but apparently she talked about him to her family as a serious boyfriend. He tried getting out of going to the funeral but Ty would have none of that, so here is in Texas giving a eulogy for a girl he barely remembers.

In Texas he meets Abilene’s family, mostly a collection of some weird small-town people, especially weird to Ben. But we’re about to get introduced to one of the most genius double-plots; a movie needs a good plot, but more than that it needs a good hook or a theme that can make the movie about more than what the plot is. Ty wants to team up with Ben to take down Abilene’s killers. Another problem: Abilene wasn’t murdered, she died from an accidental overdose of oxycodone.

Boyd Holbrook, an actor who has slowly made a name for himself over the past decade, gives the best performance of his career. Ty is a true Texan down to the cowboy hat and guns and hatred for his hometown but he’ll punch right back if you dare to insult his hometown. He’s a guy who has no problem sounding like a complete buffoon for laughs but turns around with surprising insight to reveal that he’s a lot smarter than he cares to present himself as.

Back to the double plot. While Ty thinks he and Ben are on the hunt for Abby’s murderers, Ben has actually spun this into a pitch to his podcast editor, a story about how rural white folk (re: Texans) will concoct nonsense theories about murder and revenge because they can’t process their guilt. Of course things are not that straight forward; Ty is smarter than Ben assumes, the rest of the family are smart enough to throw the guilt right back onto Ben, and a few twists involving Ashton Kutcher’s character (a rich, philosophizing music producer) turn Vengeance from a dark comedy into a sophisticated tale of rural vs urban America and society’s downfall and then back into a dark comedy.

This is sharply written, hilariously astute and thoroughly entertaining.

One of the Best of 2022