It seems perverse to me to celebrate someone’s death – but I can’t help but feel good that we’ve finally got that asshole. So, with that in mind - I decided to do a top 5 on revenge films - but narrow it to the conclusion of the films; the final acts of vengeance*
I really enjoy me a good revenge film - and I could go up and down my favorite movie list and put down the first 5 revenge films that show up - but some don't seem to have the punctuation that others have. Such as PUNCH-DRUNK LOVE which has a great ending - and I consider a revenge film - but as much as I love the end – it feels anticlimactic in a way. The same goes for OLDBOY – which has a fucking great end – but turns you on your head so badly that it’s hard to say it’s satisfying solely as a revenge film as your focus shifts so much. Also films like SEX & FURY, MAN ON FIRE and KILL BILL – where the build up to the final act far surpasses the ending to a point where as good as it was – you feel a little jipped. Honorable mentions go out too many to mention as revenge classics - though they may or may not fit my criteria.
#5. INGLORIUS BASTERDS [2009, directed by Quentin Tarantino] – Now, I may find this film overly long, overly talkie and self-indulgent to the point of frustration – and even though it’s more of a “men on a mission film” – it really is hard to deny that ending as pure greasy fried delicious vengeance. With two very big Nazi killing porn exclamation points that act as the cherry on top of this sundae. Unlike Tarantino’s DEATHPROOF the ending justifies me wanting to watch all the casual conversation as way of building tension all over again to catch the final acts.
#4. MAD MAX [1979, directed by George Miller] – Long before SAW threw a hacksaw at our feet and told us our options – Max gave us one of the most chilling and most well deserved endings in revenge cinematic history. MAD MAX is also one of the greatest film paradigms of how destructive revenge can be. The once charismatic Max becomes despondent and empty – because the hole that was created by the biker gang that doesn’t fill itself back in once his mission of revenge is complete – as we can tell from the other films in the series. That’s what drives revenge though it’s the emotion of it all – the exacting of it – if we were to know what happens after – would we still do it? In Max’s case – I think he would. And what’s brilliant about the ending is it’s that emotion that’s left in the viewer when Johnny is given his decision – and Max walks back to his car.
#3. THRILLER: A CRUEL PICTURE [1974, directed by Bo Arne Vibenius] – After long, punishing, grueling sequences of repeated abuse, rape and torture – THRILLER gives us every drop of sweet pure revenge – by giving us super slow motion gun fights and action sequences so perverse – it could be viewed as almost as punishing as what she went through – and that would be the point.
#2. LADY VENGEANCE [2005, directed by Chan-wook Park] – Not as action packed as OLDBOY – or even as poignant in the idea that the act of seeking revenge is far more destructive than getting it - but certainly an ending that elicits a certain amount of justifiable satisfaction that OLDBOY doesn’t provide. There’s a certain element of disgust – but the brutality is in many ways left to your imagination – which makes it worse – because you imagine what he deserves and in your own way become a participant in the revenge.
#1. UNFORGIVEN [1992, directed by Clint Eastwood] – My favorite film of all time – but also happens to have my favorite scene of revenge ever put to celluloid. The entire film is in fact a revenge film – where Will, Ned and the kid all go after some cowboys who cut up some prostitutes – but it’s not until the final 20 minutes that the full destructive power and the demon that Will had become shows its face. It’s got the dialogue – it’s got the action – it’s got the bone chilling horror of everything one could ever hope for a scene of pure vengeance to ever witness. What comes walking into that bar to confront Little Bill is no longer of this Earth – its brutality is nothing any human could muster – the fear in the eyes of all the men tell you – the way they run, hide and refuse to shoot – tells you that if they fuck with the devil – the devil will not forget.