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Thursday, March 19, 2009

Revenge Movies A-Go-Go!

With the unfortunate Last House On The Left remake hitting theaters like a flu it's given me time to pause and ponder about my favorite revenge movies that have fostered my own insatiable bloodlust and seething need for justice. Some you might recognize as classics but there a few down there that fly off the average Amazon listmaker's radar. Enjoy and watch your back.

Death Wish - In the flagship installment of justice-dealing Paul Kersey, Bronson birthed the term "bronsoning," which meant to punish mercilessly, and then say some 1-3 words. NYC crime-weary audiences cheered for Bronson wiping out goon after goon, and then art imitated life when nerd-turned-vigilante Bernie Goetz shot four men allegedly in self-defense, leaving one paraplegic. Bronson himself had to tell audiences not to take the law into their own hands. Too bad I didn't hear him! (sawing off shotgun)...

The Vengeance Trilogy: Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance, Oldboy, Sympathy for Lady Vengeance - On the RS podcast I claimed Oldboy had some of the best first 40 minutes of a movie I had ever seen, and I still stand by it. Upon seeing Oldboy I had to chew gum not to crack a molar. SMV and SLV are terrific in their own rite but Oldboy truly distills the essence of vengeance as one person versus the world, less a human and more an unstoppable force, that is, until the end of the film, when there's more twists than a barrel of pretzels.

Dead Man's Shoes - Directed by Shaun Meadows (also director of the flawless This Is England), this film made a surprising entry into the revenge canon. Paddy Considine gives a ridiculously convincing performance as ex-soldier Richard who returns to his sleepy town to unflinchingly reprimand the baddies who tormented his mentally disabled brother Anthony. What ensues is a gripping slow-boiling quest for merciless revenge - easily one of my favorite flavors of revenge (right next to fire and brimstone from above).

I Spit On Your Grave - This movie is just so hard to watch that I have to recommend it just as a reference point. There's just something so terrible about this film, the use of rape, the subsequent murders of said rapists. Sure, it's bad 70s grindhouse b-movie schlock at its worst, but still, it's like watching 45 car accidents for 90 minutes (and the cars were driven by awful, awful people). And while we're at it, let's throw Ms. 45 and Thriller - A Cruel Picture in here - it's the same stuff, equally grimy and just not fun to watch with people you care about. Play Super Mario Bros. 2 instead.

Clifford - Now I have seen my share of creepy revenge movies, and there's just something so much more sinister about Martin Short playing a ten-year-old in the first place that shoots it right up the list. While the crime "perpetrated" against this little bastard is small: his architect uncle, expertly played by Charles Grodin, can't take him to Dinosaur World (which he designed) because he has to redesign the LA metro system (a clever ploy by boss Dabney Coleman to get closer to Grodin's li'l lady Mary Steenburgen), nothing downplays the eeriness of Martin Short pretending to be a child. In fact, the combination of shapes created by Martin Short's body will cause bats to fly into your house and crash into your television. Just imagine giving Martin Short a gun in this movie and you'd have the creepiest revenge movie ever made. I'd like to think there's a final scene in the director's cut with Martin Short emerging from a crypt, his mouth covered in blood, saying "more flesh..." I have a lot to say about Clifford. It truly is for lovers.

Once Upon A Time In The West - Westerns make for awesome revenge movies. I think because everyone carried a gun back then and all it took for a bloody firefight was an extra ace on the table, a hat not tipped to a lady, a table flipped over, or someone's horse groped. OUATITW is no exception: Henry Fonda plays a black-hatted bad guy for a change (western law: black hat = bad man), and Charles Bronson makes another appearance on this list as the man of few words Harmonica (such a better name than Slide-Whistle). Sergio Leone must have been paid by the squib because he cooked up a sanguinary six-gun stew with thirty sides of buckshot and boy, am I famished. This movie delivers on all fronts: Perfect casting, a great story, and some of the best western devices ever used. Also great: Hang 'Em High, The Searchers, Bring Me The Head Of Alfredo Garcia. What say you, Bobby Internet?

Revenge Of The Nerds - Clap your hands everybody, and everybody clap your hands. We're Lambda Lambda Lambda and Omega Mu. We come here on stage tonight to do our show for you. We got a rockin' rhythm and a hi-tech sound that'll make you move your body down to the ground. We got Poindexter on the violin, and Lewis and Gilbert will be joining in. We got Booger Presley on the mean guitar and a rap by little ol' me Lamar. We got Takashi beating on his gong, the boys and the Mu's are clapping along. And just when you thought, ya seen it all, along comes a Lambda four foot tall. So Wormser come on out here on the floor, so we can move our bodies, like never before. Break!

The Limey: Terrence Stamp dishing out swift Cockney justice? Luis Guzmán as the sidekick? Shit yeah. This Steven Soderbergh-directed revenge pic goes down smooth at a mere 89 minutes but it packs a wallop. It's a retribution amusement park ride where every five minutes you're asking yourself something like "Did Terrence Stamp just throw some jerk off a roof?" and "Did Terrence Stamp just ice three dudes in a warehouse?" The answer to both questions: a resounding and gratifying "yes."

And of course there's the popular others: Sleepers, Count of Monte Cristo, Carrie, Kill Bill I & II, Mad Max and Payback (starring everyone's favorite anti-Semite/weirdo Mel Gibson, and as much as I'd love to leave him off the list for already being on another list of mine (Top 10 Biggest Jerkoffs), someone will inevitably ask why these films were left off the list), and The FIRST Punisher (that's right I'll stake my film cred on it right now, lose it, and get me some of that bailout money!)

And a bonus! Roger Ebert's 1994 Review of Clifford-

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