Revenge movies are based on a character’s need to extract his pound of flesh from someone over a perceived wrong. The films are always action-based and driven by intense performances. At least they ought to be. Vengeance is a strong emotion and to capture it successfully on film, takes a masterful performance, something all of these films have.
Every once in a while, we all have the urge to exact a pound of flesh. Luckily most of us don’t act on those urges. We can live vicariously through those that do or be reminded of just how much could be at stake and why we are better off leaving things alone.
Law Abiding Citizen (2009) Gerard Butler and Jamie Foxx square off as victim and prosecutor in this tale of a man seeking justice for his murdered family. When the D.A. makes a deal that puts the killer back on the street, against the victim’s wishes, the desire for vengeance takes control. As prominent people involved with the case begin to die, The D.A. must figure out who is behind the murders and find a way to stop him. Both Butler and Foxx give excellent portrayals in this cat and mouse story. (Rated R)
Brave One (2007) Jodie Foster plays Erica Bain, a radio personality about to be married. She and her fiancé and the family dog are out for a walk in Central Park one night when they area attacked by a group of thugs in a tunnel. Left for dead, her fiancé murdered, she tries to pick up the pieces of her shattered life. Where once there was the illusion of security in her place in the world, she is now terrified of everyone she meets. Buying a gun, she believes, will give her the courage to get through the days until she discovers the power it holds. She interviews the cop working the vigilante killings and the two strike up a friendship. He is determined to stop the killings and she knows he’s going to catch her. (Rated R)
Walking Tall (2004) Dwayne Johnson (The Rock), is Chris Vaughn, a former U.S. special forces soldier, returns home to find work at the local mill. Instead he finds the mill closed, replaced by a casino owned by his former classmate Jay, played by Johnny Knoxville. With no other source of income, the town has become dependent on the casino and corruption is the way of life. Vaughn decides enough is enough and takes back his town. (Rated PG-13)
Death Sentence (2007) Kevin Bacon stars as the devoted dad, Nick Hume, an insurance executive aware of the odds in life. When his son is killed as part of a gang initiation at a gas station, Hume loses his focus. The D.A. says the perpetrator will only get 3 years behind bars, which is unacceptable to Hume. He fails to identify the suspect in a line up, putting him back on the street and at Hume’s mercy. But taking his revenge opens the door to retaliation, gangland style and now Nick and the rest of his family are in danger as the gang bangers seek revenge of their own. (Rated R)
Eye for an Eye (1996) Sally Field, an unlikely action heroine, is distraught mother, McKann who listens helplessly on her cell phone as her daughter Julie is raped and murdered. The assailant is released on a technicality. When he kills again, McKann sets out to watch him. The rapist, chillingly played by Keifer Sutherland, Warns her to stay out of his life and McKann soon finds help from a bereaved parents’ support group, though not the kind she expected. A subgroup has decided to take matters into their own hands and provide justice when the court system fails to do so. McKann learns to handle a gun and waits for her opportunity. (Rated R)
Count of Monte Cristo (2002) Edmond Dantes, portrayed by James Caviezel, plans the ultimate revenge. Dantes is falsely accused of treason by his best friend who wants Dantes’ girl. Imprisoned for 14 years, Dantes meets another prisoner who helps him escape and reveals the whereabouts of along lost treasure. Dantes uses the treasure to establish himself as a wealthy count and finally wields the power to exact his revenge on those who betrayed him. (Rated PG-13)
Taken (2008) Liam Neeson is driven as the father of an abducted daughter. Divorced Brian Mills, a retired Secret Service agent, now finds work in the private security sector. He objects when his 17-year old daughter wants to go to Europe with a friend for vacation but relents when she and his ex-wife pressure him. She calls her dad when she arrives and he hears her and her friends being abducted. With nothing more to go on, he jumps on a plane and the chase to recover his daughter begins. (Rated PG-13)
Death Wish (1974) Charles Bronsan in the classic film that established the revenge genre is Paul Kersey, a man bent on revenge after his wife is murdered by street thugs. He takes a vacation to try to heal from his emotional wounds but after returning to New York, he is overcome with a desire to clean up the streets. (No Rating)
Gladiator (2000) Maximus, deftly played by Russell Crowe, is a beloved Roman general. So esteemed is he that Caesar chooses him as his successor over his son, Commodus. In a struggle for the thrown, Commodus orders Maximus and his family killed. Maximus survives but is unable to save his wife and son, leaving him broken. He is captured by slavers who put him in the gladiatorial arena. His battlefield experience serves him well and he rises to the top. His will to live is rekindled when he learns that winning in Rome will earn him his freedom and a face to face encounter with the man he holds responsible for his family’s death – Commodus. (Rated R)
Cape Fear (1991) Nick Nolte and Robert DeNIro face one another as a former public defender and convicted rapist, respectively. Sam Bowden was assigned to the case of Max Cady a then accused rapist. He squelched evidence that might have gotten Cady off. While in prison, Cady learned of the illegal move and upon earning his freedom, sets out to punish Bowden. He wages first a psychological war on Bowden and his family. When things become unbearable, Bowden hires people to run Cady off and finds himself on the wrong side of the law. He scoops his family and tries to go into hiding but Cady follows them and the stakes rise much higher once everyone is out in the wilderness.