[In theaters and Video on Demand.] ••• The rape-revenge sub-genre has many entries, and everything about “Revenge” (including the title) sounds derivative until you get to the credits. How many movies on this topic were written and directed by women? This one, a cool, synth-scored empowerment anthem from French first-timer Coralie Fargeat, turns the exploitation model on its head by delivering more male nudity than female, by not showing the rape graphically, and by making the rapist a pitiful coward, all without skimping on the blood, pain, and satisfying kickassery that the audience for a rape-revenge thriller came to see.
Italian beauty Matilda Lutz stars as Jen, mistress to douchey business-stud Richard (Kevin Janssens), who has brought her to his isolated desert home for a rendezvous before his hunting buddies show up. Fargeat initially lets us think Jen is a subservient sex object (her first act upon reaching the house is to cheerfully offer Richard a BJ), but we learn otherwise when the hunting buddies — coldly sniveling Stan (Vincent Colombe) and sloppy Dimitri (Guillaume Bouchede) — arrive a day early. While drinking and partying, Jen dances lustily for the men, enjoying the full expression of her sexuality, the camera acknowledging her sexiness without leering at her. But Stan, entitled and insecure, takes Jen’s performance personally and, the next day, assaults her while Richard is out of the house and Dimitri does nothing except turn up the TV to drown out Jen’s screams.
Jen subsequently suffers a grievous bodily injury (this we’re shown graphically) that leaves the men thinking she’s no longer a problem as they embark on their hunting trip. The men, you may rest assured, are incorrect. Jen proves to be a resilient survivor, the hunters become the hunted, etc. The heinous things that happen to the men thereafter are no worse than they deserve. Lutz isn’t much of an actress, and the bulk of the dialogue being in English (a foreign language for everyone in the cast) gives the movie a faint whiff of Euro-cheese. But Fargeat deftly sets up the men as pathetic pigs and lets us revel in Jen’s righteous triumph over them in a stylish, exhilarating fashion.
B (1 hr., 48 min.; technically in subtitled French but most of the dialogue is in English; )