Revanche (2008) Review

A quick word about why, why am I writing short, loose random reviews. A few years ago when I became a full-on skeptic, I felt I kind of had to re-evaluate my ethics and standards. I felt I needed solid reasons for my positions and beliefs. Because it’s what every one else believes isn’t a solid enough reason. Every one used to believe the earth was flat. I wanted to believe as many true things and as few false things as I am aware of. This lead to developing systems for evaluating information and determining it’s validity. It’s nowhere near perfect because emotions and subconscious leaps can be a real bitch to weed out.
Now that I feel solid about where I stand belief-wise, I’ve felt the need to explore why I like what I like and don’t like what I don’t like. Movies—and coming soon, games—seem like a nice tangential way to codify and examine what strikes me. This blog will probably be poorly editing and not researched. I used to do a lot of that and for these purposes, slow and methodical will kill my willingness to write. I’m old enough to no longer feel the need to impress or even strive for perfection. Just doing it is always more important. That said, I hope to write about movies I mostly like and how they strike me. I do like a lot of horrible horror movies and may write about that as well because there’s usually some diamonds in the pile of manure. I probably won’t write about mainstream movies because they’re almost always just plain boring. Good can still be boring.
Enough jibber-jabber…

Browsing through the half-off Criterion collection at Barnes and Noble, I made a mental note of many of the titles also playing on Netflix streaming. One hook of this movie blog is that every movie reviewed can be streamed on Netflix or through a Roku box. Another is my commitment to shoddiness. Wait, that’s not a …
Revanche ( is an Austrian film released through Criterion on DVD. I’d seen it mentioned in a few of the movie sites I peruse, so why not.
I’m not going to say much about the plot because I want you to see it. At first I thought It’d be one of those Eastern European slice of life pictures about how hard and crappy life can be. You know the type, people eat a real thin soup and stare out windows into a rainy, cruel world a lot. The unhappy couple in the film is a down on his luck brothel handyman and enforcer and his secret Polish girl friend. They have sex and make plans a lot. Pretty typical stuff.
Then the BIG mistake happens, that defining event that sets the rest of the film in motion. Although the event is different than what would happen in a dramatic American movie; it’s still fairly standard stuff, albeit well constructed and filmed.
It’s the remaining two-thirds that movie builds a slow and steady tension. Call it the Fargo Gambit, if you see a wood chipper in the first act, someone’s going to get shredded in the third. The handy man chops a lot of wood. A lot of wood. At first it’s slightly boring, then builds into a foreboding omen. You know the next scene, he’ll be at that lathe and dread it.
More so, the limited split narrative muddies the audience’s sympathies and creates some opportunities for some interesting confrontations.
American movies have trained us for certain beats, especially in dramas and thrillers. You see a clue out in the open, you know it’s just a matter of time before the wrong character will see it and set-up a confrontation.
I like this movie because it knows what my expectations are and doesn’t pay them off like a thousand other movies would in the genre. Plus, the pay-off isn’t a cheat, that trick or ‘mind blowing’ ending that an American would pull to make itself edgy. I’m thinking of the American remake of the French thriller The Vanishing. The French version had an unexpected ending that, upon later reflection, was an extension of the movies themes of obsession and lurking evil. The American remake was fairly faithful to the French version and even had the same ending. Sadly the ending came a full half-hour before the movie actually ended. The last half hour was tacked on to undo the themes of the French version and make everything all better, using every trope in the book. U-G-H.
And I was thinking about a fictional American remake of Revanche while the credits were rolling and that bullshit third act of this imaginary remake just made me angry. That’s how much I liked the ending, I was already pissed about someone fucking it up.

Oh, and the characters in Revanche were complex and well-acted in a low-key, non-glamourous way and blah, blah, blah and so on.

Plus, the lead looks like the actor who played Buffalo Bill in Silence of the Lambs and is Monk’s boss on TV. So,my crappy American version is already half cast.

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