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Vengeance – Review

Most people know the name B.J. Novak from his portrayal of Ryan on the office, however if you deep dive into B.J. Novak you see that he has a good amount of writing and directing credits under his belt as well. So it should be no surprise to anyone that his directorial and writing feature debut, Vengeance, is a success. While the movie does take a little while to find its footing, shifting through a few different ideas and themes, once it lands the stride it is a non-stop edge of your seat thriller that will leave you shocked at the result.

Vengeance focuses on Ben, played by B.J. Novak, who is a struggling podcaster trying to find the next big thing. He keeps trying to bounce these socio-economical and politically driven ideas to his boss, Eloise played by Issa Rae, about America and how America is its people and so forth and she rightfully rejects his exhaustive ideas. However, one early morning after waking up beside his latest hookup he receives a call from Ty Shaw, played by Boyd Holbrook that a previous hookup he had, Abby played by Lio Tipton, has suddenly died and invites/demands his presence at the funereal. Upon arriving at the funeral, Ben realizes that the family believes that his relationship with Abby was more than just a one off, but appeared to be her boyfriend and thus everything starts to delve into chaos. Ty believes that his sister was murdered, and gets his family including El Stupido played by Eli Bickel, Jasmine played by Dove Cameron, Paris played by Isabella Amara, Grandmother Carole played by Louanne Stephens, and their mother Sharon played by J. Smith-Cameron are all in agreement that something doesn’t add up about their daughter/sister/granddaughter as the circumstances surrounding Abby’s death are more than suspicious. This leads Ben to pitch the idea of an overdose of a sweet Texas girl who’d never touch a pill, with a southern family who believes in wild theories, as his podcast to Eloise and thusly kicks off the adventure.

What works so well in Vengeance, are the performances that are gifted throughout the entirety of the film. B.J. Novak is unrelenting in trying to find out the truth, trying to get his podcast, and making sure that there is a sense of justice brought upon the suspicious death of his one night encounter. Boyd Holbrook playing the desperate, while albeit unhinged brother is excellent as his charisma and characteristics are off the rails. However, it is Louanne Stephens that steals every scene she is in with her absolute maddening performance of Granny retelling events with great interpretation.

Moreover though, the nuances and creation of this story by B.J. Novak is so intriguing to see the multiple layers and inspiration that is going through this script. There are moments where it feels like an overlong episode of Modern Seinfeld, then it becomes later seasons of True Detective, all while carefully balancing the comedy and the severity of the subject matter. Novak manages to delicately dance between serious and hilarious in a respectful way that shines a light on the opioid epidemic in the United States and relieves the high tension from that subject with some well-placed comedy. Vengeance is a home run as far as debuts go, and hopefully we get to see more from B.J. Novak like this in the future.

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Vengeance – Review


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About The Author

My earliest movie memory, outside of my home theatre in my basement, was going to the local Video 99 and wanting to rent ET only to be told by the shop owner it was playing down the street in theatres. My love for cinema has been alive for as long as I can honestly remember. I would frequent the cinema minutes down from my house daily. It was a second home. Movies are an escape from the everyday world, a window into the soul, a distant friend. If I’m not watching a movie, I’m probably watching a tv show, if I’m doing neither I’m asleep.

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