Quite uneven and at times disjointed, Vengeance is a quirky indie comedy you should check out. It’s one of the latest attempts to “bridge the gap” between urban and rural America, trying its best to please both sides. And just to be clear, despite the title Vengeance, there will be little action here. We will be following Ben Manalowitz, an affluent journalist from New York as he navigates the treacherous waters of rural Texas following a terrible tragedy. Just get through the opening ten minutes and you should be fine. If I have to watch another rich guy trying to find meaning or success in life, I’m going to break the fucking tv.
The movie opens with two bros talking about life and dating culture. And while you could feel they were deliberately going for that clueless obnoxious dialogue vibe, it was still a bit annoying. At least we found out more about the latest lifestyle trends and choices. And don’t get me wrong, most of what they were saying was true, it was the thing as a whole that was annoying. And perhaps I saw the things I wanted to change about myself in them and this was the reason why I didn’t like this part. However, shortly after this, Vengeance turns into a murder mystery and things work out just fine from then on out.
Usually, I’m very wary of movies written, directed, and starring the same guy, as this one is. Even his name is a post-ironic take on the hazing culture, B.J. Novak. However, this is not the first time this has happened. Just a few weeks ago we talked about The Endless, an excellent indie science fiction written, directed, and starring the same guys. So, it can be done. Novak made a surprisingly good movie that could’ve benefited from more coherent storytelling. To be honest, it feels like a movie I would end up making, overthinking it to the max.
It just tries to tell us too many insightful truths. You will feel overwhelmed by the cerebral dialogue and intricate concepts thrown at you while the main story will be left in the background. The characters also feel just developed enough to push the story of our hero forward. The perfect example is when he ends up in hospital and Ty is just there, present. You feel that this is not how he would react but then again, I could be reading too much into this. And the atmosphere is just too aloof for this type of story. It’s like the movie never leans into the real issues, always keeping a comfortable distance. Perhaps I am being too hard on it because it turned out pretty good.
Podcasts are all the rage now and Ben wants in on the game. He just needs to find something good to talk about. However, his life seems too urban and familiar for that. Ben needs something extraordinary but still familiar. Something he can analyze and show just how smart he is. And then he gets a strange phone call in the middle of the night. A phone call that’s going to change his life.
I don’t want to reveal too much of the story as this is the whole point of Vengeance, to catch you by surprise. And this isn’t me saying that, it’s Novak saying that he wanted to surprise the audience by making a movie they didn’t expect. In the end, he made exactly the type of movie you would expect him to make. Apart from him we also have Boyd Holbrook who gave an excellent performance along with J. Smith-Cameron. You might remember her as Gerri from Succession.
Ashton Kutcher, apart from looking exactly like he did in his twenties, was quite lukewarm and just off. And I know the man can act, I just don’t know what happened here. Despite all the meandering, Vengeance finishes with a bang making it a solid distraction until the next quirky comedy comes along. The last one was Red Rocket and I freaking loved it! Finally, I shouldn’t forget to mention that there will be quite a few funny jokes here. Novak seems to be on the right track to becoming a great director, he just needs to keep on fighting.
Director: B.J. Novak
Writer: B.J. Novak
Cast: B.J. Novak, Boyd Holbrook, Issa Rae, Dove Cameron, J. Smith-Cameron, Ashton Kutcher
Fun Facts: For more than three years, Novak worked on a script for this movie, taking several trips to Texas to better acquaint himself with the culture.