Wednesday 28 April 2021

Movie Review: Revenge (1990)

A revenge drama and smouldering romance, Revenge never overcomes a bland script and aloof performances.

U.S. Navy pilot Jay Cochran (Kevin Costner) retires after 12 years of service and heads down to Mexico to visit his old friend Tibey Mendez (Anthony Quinn), who lives on a sprawling estate defended by armed guards. Tibey's much younger wife Miryea (Madeleine Stowe) is unhappy in their marriage and immediate sets her eyes on Jay. But Tibey is a ruthless political power-broker and will not tolerate anyone stealing his wife's heart. Nevertheless Jay and Miryea embark on a passionate affair, leading to violence. 

Author Jim Harrison adapted his own novella into a screenplay, and Tony Scott directs with his usual eye for visual flair, but the ponderously-paced Revenge never clicks. The film gets bogged down in endless plastic dialogue between Jay and Miryea, Costner and Stowe trading passive line delivery and blank looks set to sappy music. 

Once Jay and Miryea cross the line from talking to lovemaking, Tibey makes his move to forcibly separate the lovers, triggering a gore-fest. The revenge-most-violent aspects apply equally to Jay and Tibey, as both men are intent on redressing wrongs from their perspective, but all the blood-spilling unfolds with mechanical soullessness. 

The second half grows increasingly disjointed and throws a bewildering array of new characters onto the screen. A caring Mexican and his mother, a traveling Texan, a couple of guys with their own revenge agenda, and Sally Kirkland as the lead singer of a touring heavy metal band (?!) all get a few disconnected scenes, quantity trumping quality as none of them are defined well enough to progress beyond the prop stage.

In contrast to the emotion-challenged Costner and Stowe, Anthony Quinn plays Anthony Quinn, domineering, larger than life, gregarious, sneaking in a dance, and with an eye for the kill when necessary. It's an overly familiar performance but at least full of conviction, and when Quinn disappears for a long stretch, the movie loses charm.

The Mexican setting provides Scott with opportunities to capture vivid colours, gorgeous beaches, romantic sunsets, dusty small towns, dank cantinas and local flavour, and Revenge is never less than pretty to look at. The movie also opens with an irrelevant high-speed interlude as Cochran takes his final flight in a Navy jet fighter against a flaming red-orange sky. The director has an inert revenge drama on his hands, and not surprisingly would rather be somewhere else.

All Ace Black Movie Blog reviews are here.

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