Focus Features 2022
Mystery/Comedy/ Thriller/ Drama
By HOWARD MCQUITTER II
Well, simply hearing about the film Vengeance without seeing the trailer can easily give the impression the film is like a bum-rush, aimless action film like Bullet Train. However, Vengeance is just the opposite of Bullet Train‘s reckless adventures.
First, Vengeanceis the directorial debut by B.J. Novak (Knocked Up , The Smurfs , Inglourious Basterds  ). He is also the screenwriter and principal actor. (Novak is the actor and the writer from The Office.)
As the story goes, Ben Manalowitz (BJ. Novak) is a journalist and podcaster in New York City, when one night he gets a frantic call that his “girlfriend” is dead from an overdose. He’s puzzled on what “girlfriend” that could be, so he has to scroll through his cellphone to find out who she was.
He flies to West Texas to meet Ty Shaw (Boyd Holbrook), the dead woman’s brother, who believes his sister Abilene (Lio Tipton) was murdered. Ty invites Ben over for dinner to meet the rest of his eccentric but gracious family: Kansas City (Dove Cameron), Paris (Isabella Amara), Sharon (J. Smith-Cameron) and El Stupido (Eli Bickel). All show the New Yorker Southern hospitality.
Vengeance, shrouded in what really happened to Abilene, presents its pockets of satirical, refreshing moments. Ben gets a big dose of West Texas culture making him wrestle with his own assumptions about that part of the country. In turn, the Shaws seem to be doubting their stereotypes about the man from the Big Apple. Although the movie is a whodunnit for sure, the underlying piece is dialogue between class and region of the country.
“She [Abilene] never touched so much as an Advil,” Ty contends. Ben sees the story about
Abilene’s death as a great chance for his podcast perhaps to go national. All along he records
conversations from the Shaws and other locals sending them back to his editor Eloise (Issa Rae)
in New York. Ben continues to communicate with Eloise (though maybe less than before) as the
film moves into darker territory. Vengeance is a smart, witty, funny, and serious
piece of work. It’s patient without lagging.
Cast: B.J. Novak (Ben Manalowitz), Issa Rae (Eloise), Ashton Kutcher (Quinten Sellers),
Boyd Holbrook (Ty Shaw), Dove Cameron (Kansas City Shaw),Isabella Amara (Paris Shaw),
J. Smith-Cameron (Sharon Shaw),Lio Tipton (Abilene Shaw), Grayson Berry (Officer Mike),Sean Dillingham (Rowdy Stranger),Sarah Minnich (Brunette Random House Party).
Director and Screenplay: BJ. Novak
Produced by: Blumhouse Productions
Cinematography: Lyn Moncrief
Original Music: Finneas
Running time: 107 minutes. (R)
Tags: Howard McQuitter, reviews