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Tuesday, May 27, 2014

VENDETTA -- DVD review by porfle


As reflected by several recent movies, many typical English citizens tend to feel helpless in the face of rising crime--especially when committed against innocent people by snotty young chavs with no moral compass whatsoever--and yearn for some good old-fashioned justice. 

 I can relate to that, which is why Danny Dyer's gritty revenge thriller VENDETTA (2013) is such a blast to watch.

Dyer (FREERUNNER, MALICE IN WONDERLAND, OUTLAW) plays Jimmy Vickers, an interrogation expert for the British forces in Afghanistan who, upon being dishonorably discharged, returns to London to visit his parents.  Tragically, they're both brutally tortured and killed before his arrival by a bunch of drug-dealing punks after Jimmy's dad (Tony Denham) heroically foils their robbery of a young woman on a bank run.  Breaking into their house, the gang rape Jimmy's mom (Emma Samms, "Dynasty") and then, in a scene which recalls a bit of the EDEN LAKE vibe, burn the couple alive.

What these vile (and very well-cast) hooligans don't realize is that they've just gotten on the bad side of someone whose job it is to go medieval on people's arses.  I don't know about you, but this sort of set-up has me chomping at the bit to see some of that hardcore Charles Bronson/DEATH WISH-style revenge served up in heaping helpings to the bad guys.  In other words, the last thing I want is to see someone reading these guys their rights and offering to appoint a lawyer for them.

VENDETTA knows what we want, and wastes little time satisfying our sweet tooth for vengeance.  Driven by intense grief and a burning anger, Jimmy Vickers uses all his Black Ops military training to go to war against the bad guys in ways that would border on torture porn if these sequences weren't so "short but sweet." 

Simply put, I love seeing sadistic bastards get back in spades the same kind of violence and intimidation that they inflict on others.  And with Jimmy, we have the perfect vehicle for such fitting revenge played out in a series of tense and sometimes action-packed scenes. 

Still, there wouldn't be much to the film it that were all there were to it.  And writer-director-editor Stephen Reynolds (TOMB RAIDER ASCENSION) gradually gives us more and more of Jimmy's backstory, introducing a succession of new characters to go with it, until there's a whole lot of other interesting stuff going on. 

An ongoing conflict rages between the cops who actually want to "take a bite out of crime"--such as Jimmy's supportive beat-cop friend Griff (Michael Ryan)--and career-conscious bureaucrats such as the loathesome DCI Holland (Alistair Petrie), who wants Jimmy stuffed on his mantelpiece while shrugging off the horrors going on around him. 

And then there's the sudden appearance of Jimmy's military cohorts, led by no-nonsense Colonel Leach (Vincent Regan, 300, TROY), to whom Jimmy is a much more valuable tool in extracting vital information from terrorists than in Holland's public image as a crimestopper.  Leach confronts Holland in one of the film's many powerful dialogue scenes that give its middle section just the right kind of edge to keep things interesting.  Bruce Payne (PASSENGER 57) lends his stone-faced acting weight as the even more intense government mystery man Rooker, another highly interested party in Jimmy's immediate future. 

But with all of that, the main thrust of VENDETTA remains the basic revenge story done well.  Dyer is at his low-key best as the wounded soul at the heart of it all, portraying a tender emotional side with his estranged wife Morgan (Roxanne McKee, WRONG TURN 5: BLOODLINES)--for whom he still wears his wedding ring--and his alter ego, the cold, calculating, almost fearless stalker-killer.  Director Reynolds keeps things tense, lean, and visually pleasing (except for some bothersome Shaky-Cam) and really knows how to ratchet up our vicarious need to see the baddies bite the big one.

The DVD from Inception Media Group is in 16x9 widescreen with 5.1 digital surround sound and both English subtitles and closed-captions.  Extras include a chummy commentary track with Reynolds and Dyer, a deleted scene,  and a trailer. (Don't miss the extra scene which pops up during the end credits crawl and teases us for the impending sequel.)

Is Jimmy Vickers' VENDETTA morally repugnant despite how utterly deserving of it these scum-of-the-earth  villains are?  And is it wrong of me to enjoy seeing such violent retribution against them?  Oh, well, it's only a movie... only a movie... only a movie...

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