UK Release Date – TBC
Revenge is a dish best eaten cold as they say. That is if unknown authors (or cooks) are to be believed of course. But in reality this idea and the concept of dealing out justice to evil-doers is a complex issue, and this is a story which attempts to examine just how nebulous things can get. Drawing inspiration from the likes of Blue Ruin, Calvary and perhaps You Were Never Really Here, this is another story balancing dark themes with black comedy and eccentric characters in an attempt to tell a thought provoking and disturbing story. There are moments of both humour, tragedy, and stomach churning drama, but just how balanced this meal is needs further examination.
The film jumps forward right into the middle of the narrative to show the nameless protagonist (Tom E. Nicholson) fumbling in the dark during his attempt at a vigilante attack. He looks like the Zodiac killer but immediately behaves in a clumsy manner to make the tone feel uncertain. It seems like a hook to draw the viewer in right out of the gate, but comes off as a shaky tease of things to come because the editor wasn’t sure about the slower material in the first act. Which is fair, since the rest of the opening continues to mix weird gags with darker story moments. Things find their footing later on but there’s a lot of meandering to get through first.
Our Man, as he’s credited, is an oddball as well as a tormented soul. He argues with post office staff about the price of stamps and he bemoans the bureaucracy that gives him a job working for an insurance company but denies him easy access to the therapy he’s required to attend. There’s an irreverent streak to his daily life whether it’s his antagonistic relationship with his only regular social outlet – a cheap burger joint – or the way he watches old romance movies and westerns late at night. The film plays up many of these inclusions a little too much during the first half of the film, but it contrasts against his inner demons and the bleak nature of his routine.
This everyday repetition is soon disrupted when a parcel containing a computer disc is accidentally mailed to him. It’s an unsettling change of gears as the story reveals both the contents of the package – images of children intended for a local preacher – as well how this ties into Our Man’s past trauma. In some ways the dark comedic elements play into his revenge fantasy as the gunslingers on TV dish out hot lead to bad guys with style and ease, while he has to wait for a gun permit and makes a vigilante disguise by hand. But his simplistic ideas are soon replaced by a gruesome reality that can’t be washed away with any amount of super value vodka, and his mundane existence quickly becomes far more complicated.
Things start to become more cohesive when the same preacher’s daughter arrives. Tilly (Danika Golombek) begins to shake up Our Man’s lonely existence, but make no mistake this is not a romantic pairing. Instead the themes of the story become far more effective as the unlikely duo sit and debate loss, grief, and sinister father figures. This tonal shift moves away from the comedy of errors and into far more interesting territory as the characters open up, despite their apparent disdain for one another. There are still a few zany moments as they travel around the city but it’s more measured. Tilly has her own problems as a struggling author and feels more fleshed than would normally be expected for this archetype, and their ego clashes are pretty compelling.
It’s still all very on the nose as their feelings of loss slowly rise to the surface, but for a character study of two people discussing what justice and revenge can actually achieve the results are sympathetic while never being saccharine. The bulk of the expected drama reaches a conclusion fairly early on in the narrative, leaving the rest of the film to explore new avenues and build towards a less typical finale. Neither of the leads are particularly charismatic but this suits their personalities and makes them relatable instead merely likeable. Some of the minor characters are far more wooden (particularly the counter staff of several varieties) but it fits the uncaring world this story commits to.
In terms of content there’s not much in the way of fresh meat here, but it does take some care to approach some of these elements with an interesting angle. As a portrait of people that don’t look after themselves because of their mental health or those who want quick and easy answers to tough situations it’s not particularly well drawn, but it does at least attempt to offer some food for thought. The initial levity is an obvious attempt to make a tough subject matter more palatable, and with better pacing and less incongruous comedy this first half hour would have been a lot more effective. But for those looking for a left field drama it could be worth seeing through to the final course.