Article: Everyman Film Review: Vengeance (2022)
Everyman Film Review: Vengeance (2022)
These days it seems like nearly every man in America has a podcast attempting to cover every topic imaginable— sports, true crime, history, music, pop culture, comedy, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles… they’ve got ‘em all. Enter Ben, (played by B.J. Novak, who also wrote and directed this full feature, his first), a thirty-something living in New York with as few strings attached as possible, desperately searching for direction. He gets a middle-of-the-night call from the brother of a young woman, Abby, with whom he’d been on a handful of dates over the course of the past several months. Ben quickly learns that Abby has recently passed away and that, prior to her untimely demise, she had apparently led her family to believe that her actually-superficial relationship with Ben was much more serious than it was. Thus, Ben receives a heartfelt invitation to attend the funeral of a woman whom he barely knew. In west Texas. Unsure of how to appropriately extricate himself from the surreal situation, he soon finds himself in rural Texas, seemingly out of misplaced guilt or possibly boredom. He learns that Abby’s family believes her death to be a result of questionable circumstances and, in lieu of exacting the vengeance demanded in this small Texas community, he agrees to make her mysterious death the subject of his fledgling podcast, hoping to find the truth and help the family find closure.
B.J. Novak (The Office— US), Boyd Holbrook (Logan, Gone Girl, and Netflix’s The Sandman), Ashton Kutcher, a very grown-up Dove Cameron (if you have daughters, you may recognize her from Disney’s The Descendants), producer-actress-writer Issa Rae (The Hate You Give), and John Mayer (yes, that John Mayer). Honestly, stellar performances from every one of them, no notes.
This definitely qualifies as an Indie-film in the sense that it’s not from one of the Big Five film studios in America, although Amazon Studios isn’t exactly low-budget. That said, Vengeance is hard to define by genre— it passes as a thriller/comedy/mystery/drama, but that’s still a vague, reductive description for a movie whose central plot and purpose is left, more or less, intentionally-ambiguous throughout most of the film. It addresses an array of unsavory topics including, but not limited to drug use/overdose, death, gang violence, etc. so the subject material won’t appeal or be suitable to the average film franchise-adoring audience where the bad guys are easy to identify (or they’re an enormous purple alien).
Vengeance takes an indirect approach to discussing some of the absolute worst parts of America and its culture, but does it so eloquently that the film’s shifting perspectives are often profoundly funny and uniquely thought-provoking. At times, every character is the hero and the villain, depending on where you sit or based on your own experiences with some of the weightier subject material. Ultimately, the film manages to poignantly recognize and theorize on the causes of red vs. blue political division, drug abuse, and hook-up culture without taking itself too seriously.
Rated R for language, brief violence, and drug use/abuse references.
“Vengeance” is a perfect illustration of a writer’s introspection through his journey from finding a “story” to becoming a story.” — POULAMI NANDA