Revenge manages to take a genre that is generally pretty much nothing but exploitation — the rape and revenge genre — and elevate to something more. It’s incredibly well shot, has solid performances, and did I mention that there’s blood everywhere? Because I should mention that, holy shit, there’s blood everywhere.
One of the most interesting things I noticed in Revenge is just how differently the character of Jennifer is shot in the first half of the film. More than half the time is camera is pointed directly at her ass. Her head is completely cropped out of the frame. She’s being portrayed as nothing more than a piece of meat, something that exists solely for the male gaze, and in a way I think we’re meant to feel complicit in her rape. It’s an affecting move, and it reminded me a bit of Michael Haneke’s Funny Games.
Of course there are shots of her body later in the film too, but they’re different. Now she’s caked with dirt and blood and scars. Her body is now a roadmap of what she’s been through and what she’s overcome. Jennifer is, just like the brand she burned onto her own stomach to try to cauterize a wound, a phoenix.
I could quibble over how rapidly she bounces back from a pretty nasty wounding, but this is a movie less grounded in reality than it is grounded in exactly the kind of story it’s trying to tell, and I’m okay with that if it’s going to result in a film this good.