Revenge Review

Revenge Movie - Kevin Costner

(1.5 STARS)

For a film as pulpy and hard-edged as Revenge, it’s hard to believe how lifeless the final product feels. This is the first Tony Scott movie that doesn’t feel like a Tony Scott movie on paper, which I was quite excited about, but it could have used an infusion of the energy that made Top Gun and Beverly Hills Cop II and even The Hunger sing despite their respective flaws.

The film is adapted from a novella published in Esquire magazine all the way back in 1979. For almost a decade, it languished in development hell with big names like John Huston, Orson Welles, and the film’s eventual star, Kevin Costner, attached to direct at various times. Costner apparently said he wanted to make it his directorial debut because its themes were powerful, but the structure of the film was rather simple – a good fit for someone making their first movie. After Tony Scott came on board, he instead made Dances with Wolves his first directorial effort. Not a bad switch.

Costner plays Jay Cochran, a just-retired naval pilot who decides to take some R and R in Mexico with an invitation from his very wealthy old friend Tibey Mendez (Anthony Quinn). Once there, he meets Tibey’s much younger wife, Miryea (Madeleine Stowe), who desperately wants to have a child, but Tibey thinks it would be a shame to “ruin her beautiful body.” His business appears to be as crooked as his hacienda is massive and beautiful, but he has a soft spot for Jay, who saved his life many years ago on a hunting trip. Jay’s soft spot is for Miryea, who he shares an instant infatuation with – something they choose to act upon behind Tibey’s back. But not much happens without Tibey’s knowledge in this neck of the woods, and his soft spot for Jay hardens rather quickly and viciously.

The film ultimately never gets off the ground because its plot hinges on two things: That we understand what Jay is up to and that we take at face value the intensity of the connection between he and Miryea. Because both of these facets totally fall flat, a lot of Revenge‘s failure falls at the feet of Kevin Costner. He was really locked in at the time as one of the biggest stars in the world, but he’s always been the kind of guy who succeeds when he’s driven by ethical principles, and Revenge ain’t it. He’s an ex-military guy who just cavorts with a Mexican crime lord for no apparent reason, and he ultimately decides to sleep with his friend’s wife – a move that feels motivated as much by boredom as it does by passion. The film never makes Tibey sympathetic, which is fine, but that ultimately means we’re just sitting here watching shitty people be brutally violent toward each other, and it’s no fun at all.

Scott released an unrated director’s cut of Revenge on DVD in 2007 with the disclaimer that he and the theatrical film’s producer, Ray Parker, had very different visions for this story, and that this new version was the one he always wanted to make. It’s reportedly more violent, more sexual, and 20 minutes shorter than the theatrical Revenge. Maybe if the theatrical’s flaws weren’t quite as glaring, I’d check out an alternate edition. But I didn’t like this movie at all, and I have no interest tracking another version of it down.

I hope this is the worst Tony Scott movie. So far, there’s no question. I hear some rough things about a couple other titles coming up in this marathon, but it’s hard to imagine something Scott actually embraces being as bad as this movie, which it seems he doesn’t.

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