Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Revenge (1990)

Title: Revenge (1990)

Director: Tony Scott

Cast: Kevin Costner, Madeleine Stowe, Anthony Quinn, Miguel Ferrer, John Leguizamo

If you asked me which one I prefer over the two Scott brothers (Ridley Scott and Tony Scott) I’d quickly tell you that I lean more towards Ridley Scott’s style of filmmaking. It’s not that I hate Tony Scott’s films, it’s just that I enjoy Ridley Scott’s films a whole lot more because they are more cerebral and artsy, and I love artsy. Ridley’s films satisfy my brain as well as my thirst for art and spectacle. Tony Scott is the complete opposite; he focuses more on making commercial films that play by Hollywood’s rules and I enjoy Tony Scott’s films for entirely different reasons, they are crowd pleasers, they are fun and fast paced, they are action packed. Where Ridley’s films make money as a by product of the quality of his art, Tony’s films are the other way around, money making comes into the equation first. And that’s exactly what he is best at: making profitable action films. Tony is the director behind such box office hits as Top Gun (1986), Beverly Hills Cop II (1987) and Days of Thunder (1990), all big Hollywood productions with big stars and wide appeal. Sometimes, he branches out and does more experimental films; the results have been films like The Hunger (1983) and Domino (2005). And finally, if you ask me, Tony Scott is at his worst when making simplistic, vapid films like Unstopabble (2010). But most of the time, his films are entertaining and highly watchable. 

Ridley Scott Directs 

Tony Scott has also ventured into the revenge film territory. He has made two films of this variety, both of which are excellent within the revenge film genre. The first one he made is the film I will be reviewing today: Revenge (1990). His second entry into the revenge film sub-genre was the Quentin Tarantino scripted: True Romance (1993), a film I have revisited on more than one occasion. The reason why Tarantino got Tony Scott to direct True Romance was that Tarantino saw and loved Scott’s Revenge (1990). Tarantino has been quoted as saying “I’m a huge fan of that movie. In fact, that was the reason I was supportive and really tried to make it happen that Tony directed ‘True Romance’. I was like I want the man who directed ‘Revenge’ to do my movie”  In fact, the dvd cover for the unrated director’s cut of the film has a Tarantino quote that says “I consider ‘Revenge’ to be Tony Scott’s masterpiece”, so hey, Tarantino backs the hell out of this movie. And when you watch it, you actually feel like your watching a Tarantino film in many ways.

The story is all about fighter pilot Michal Jay Cochran (Kevin Costner), who’s just retired and is ready to just kick back and relax. His friend Tiburon ‘Tibey’ Mendez (Anthony Quinn) a Mexican ‘business man’ whom Jay once flew to Alaska for a hunting trip, invites Jay over to his mansion in Mexico to enjoy a couple of days of relaxation. Problem comes when Jay meets Tibey’s wife Mireya, who is a stunning beyond belief  beauty (Madeline Stowe). Jay and Mireya are immediately attracted to each other. They develop the kind of attraction that you just can’t stop. The kind of love that’s going to happen no matter what; the kind of love that can get people killed. And so the question arises, will Jay and  Mireya go through with it? I mean, if you knew the object of your affections was married to a stone cold gangster, who is also your friend, would you even think about going through with it? Well, all I can say is that if you saw Madeline Stowe in this movie, you’d understand why Jay decides to screw it all and go for her, which of course get’s him into massive amounts of trouble.

Friends or Foes?

 This movie was great for various reasons; first and foremost, it’s a great revenge film. The complications and situations that happen in this film are worthy of a Tarantino film; you almost feel like he could have written it himself. For example, just in terms of characters doing all sorts of crazy things for love, this one is very similar to True Romance (1993), yet another film in which two characters risk their lives for romance. In Revenge, Jay and Mireya fall madly (and blindly) in love with each other. Their love sets in motion a chain of destructive events; but they don’t care; they can’t seem to keep their hands off of each other. Who cares if Mireya is married to a stone cold killer? They are in love! Anthony Quinn playing the role of Tiburon ‘Tibey’ Mendez, Mireya’s gangster husband, is a real asset to the picture. Tibey seems at first like a nice kind of gangster. He plays tennis with his clients, loves his smoking hot wife and treats Jay like a son. But don’t double cross him or you’ll see his ugly side. There is this moment in which you get to know how pissed off Tibey can get: two of his henchmen attempt a hostile take over of Tibey’s operations; he quickly lets them know just who is boss. And when he discovers what’s going on between Jay and Mireya, boy, he really shows just how much of a vengeful villain he can be. The most tense scenes in the film come from those moments when you get the impression that Tibey kind of knows what's going on, but he's just toying around with Jay. You get this uncertain feeling creeping up on you: Does he know or doesnt he? Great stuff. 

 And this is where I take a chance to talk about Madeline Stowe, one of the most beautiful actresses to grace the silver screen. From the first moment she appears on screen she stuns, and the sex scenes on this film are really something else. I saw the directors cut of the film (the only version you should see of this film) and the scenes where steamier than one would expect from a Hollywood film. Tony Scott really made an effort to make this film erotic, I think it worked because I am now officially a Madeline Stowe fan. After seeing her in this film you certainly feel like this is the kind of woman you’d get yourself in trouble over. Anthony Quinn’s character asks Jay at one point “Do you think my wife is beautiful?” and Jay hesitates to answer, afraid that Tibey might get the wrong idea, but I quickly answered for him with a resounding “Hell YES!” So we got a solid cast on this one. We also get Miguel Ferrer who plays sidekick to Costners character for about half of the film, and John Leguizamo tags along in one of his very first roles ever. Leguizamo isnt really given much to do, it’s one of those roles where the actor isnt really experienced or famous yet so he doesn’t really say much. But he’s there, and he does have one cool scene all to himself. Reportedly, Leguizamo partied so much one night that he barfed on Tony Scott, which probably explains why Leguizamo hasnt worked with Tony Scott ever again. 

 My only problem with the film is the way things are resolved in the third act. The resolution didn’t gel well with a story, the kind of build up we get through out the whole film makes you think things are going to end up really badly between Jay and Tibey, but alas, things are resolved rather blandly instead. This is a trademark move from Tony Scott. While his brother often times makes films that don’t have the happy ending tacked on to them, Tony is the kind of director who actually fights to include them on his films, again showing his affinity for Hollywood style filmmaking, the mega happy ending has got to be there to satisfy the audience, so people go home happy. For example in the Tarantino’s original script for True Romance, Christian Slater’s character dies a horrible death. Tony Scott didn’t want that ending for his film, so he fought to include the mega happy ending we see in the film with Patricia Arquette and Christian Slater on the beach with their new born baby looking all shiny and happy. Revenge doesn’t exactly have a happy ending, but the main problem in the film is solved in a fashion that didn’t seem to fit the film, which kind of promises a nasty showdown in the end. But that was my only real problem with the film. The rest of it was perfect in my opinion.  

Revenge was a film that had was a hot property at one point in Hollywood, way back in 1979. You see, it took the film little more then ten years to get to the silver screen. Before it was turned into a film, it was a novella by author Jim Harrison. Once it was printed on Esquire magazine in 1979, many a Hollywood director wanted to produce and direct this project. Amongst the actors and directors who were actively seeking to direct this film were: Jack Nicholson, Kevin Costner, John Houston, Sydney Pollack, Jonathan Demme and even Francis Ford Copolla himself, but it was Tony Scott who ended up directing and he did a great job with it as far as Im concerned. It might get a little too light for a revenge film at times (especially during it's third half) but it does get pretty intense, it has some really gripping and cringe inducing moments and it’s a bit different than other revenge films because of its marked sensuality. Highly recommend this underrated Tony Scott film. 

Rating: 4 out of 5 


Unknown said...

Excellent review! I haven't seen this film in ages but I do remember Scott directing the hell out of it. I also appreciated all of the background info you supplied. I had heard that Tarantino loved this film but didn't know the link between REVENGE and TRUE ROMANCE. Nice!

Franco Macabro said...

Yeah, it's definetly a Tony Scott film, we get lots of streaks of light (something he loves to do in a lot of his films) and we even some left over Top Gun action, the movie starts out with Costner flying a jet across the dessert, Top Gun style.

Glad you enjoyed the review J.D., thanks for commenting!

Dan said...

I just got done watching my copy of REVENGE, after coming across an old Siskel and Ebert review of it. They really did not like the excessive violence, and if I remember correctly, that the was the knock at the time.
So I find it interesting that Scott found it not violent enough, not sexy enough. I liked the film at the time, and I still do. I may check out the D.Cut if given the chance, but removing 34 minutes of a film I already liked before? Not sure if I'm up for that quite yet.
A solid film, just a simple story well told, well acted, and gorgeously shot.

Franco Macabro said...

I recently checked out the directors cut, I've never seen the original theatrical version, but there is definetly a lot sexiness and violence crammed into the directors cut, so it might be worth your while.

Thanks for commenting!


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