Vengeance: A Love Story, 2017.
Directed by Johnny Martin.
Starring Nicolas Cage, Don Johnson, Deborah Kara Unger, Anna Hutchison, and Talitha Bateman.
A gulf war veteran seeks vengeance against those who assaulted a single mother.
Vengeance opens by showing us the questionable judgement of Detective John Dromoor (Nicolas Cage) as a bust goes terribly wrong. Drinking away his troubles, Dromoor meets Teena Maguire (Anna Hutchison) in the bar. She’s introduced as a single mom who is a bit too flirtatious and easy with strangers. After coming on to the Detective, he is all but smitten with her. We see more character development with a Fourth of July party where Teena continues to act like a slut, embarrassing her twelve-year-old daughter Bethie Maguire (Talitha Bateman). We see Teena heading home from the party with her daughter and taking a short cut through the woods (that’s a brilliant idea mom!). This is where the story takes a turn for the worst.
Teena is gang-raped, beaten and left for dead in front of her daughter by four meth-heads. Bethie walks back to the road and flags down a car which happens to be driven by Dromoor. After time spent in the hospital, Teena is being nursed back to health by her mother, Agnes (Deborah Kara Unger), who has taken on the responsibility of caring for both of them. Bethie ID’s the perps and a hearing is set for a potential trial.
Unsurprisingly, the parents of the rapists hire the nationally renowned criminal defense attorney, Jay Kirkpatrick (Don Johnson), who paints a different picture of the whole incident, one that focuses on Teena, her sobriety, parenting, and sexual promiscuity. When the case looks all but lost, Detective Dromoor embarks on his own course of police vigilante justice.
I had high hopes for this movie, but was quickly let down. It’s revenge porn of the worst kind. The first half serves as a setup to what you know is going to be classic Nic Cage ass-kicking. Unfortunately, the acting is overdramatic, overwrought, and one-dimensional. There’s the judge who is a little too buddy, buddy with the rapists’ lawyer. There’s the slimy lawyer with no morals. There’s the meth heads who act a little too entitled. It was so over-the-top that I couldn’t get past my suspension of disbelief.
Don’t get me wrong. I wanted to see justice dealt, but it was wrapped up a little too nicely in a bow, complete with no repercussions for Detective Dromoor’s vengeance tour. He even had his perfect little moments where he got to tell off the lawyer, give an inspired speech to the daughter and reassure the mother that everything was more than okay now, it was great. Everybody lives happily ever after.
I really wanted this movie to convince me that going outside the law was the only reasonable choice to get justice, but instead it made the choice for me and in the end, it was hollow and unfulfilling.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★
Tai Freligh is a Los Angeles-based writer and can be found on Twitter.