Revenge is a dish best savored…

…on film?

I’ve never considered myself a particularly vengeful person, but over the years I have come to enjoy a good revenge flick. The good guy/gal wins inasmuch as they are able given the loss that led them to seek vengeance in the first place. The bad guys/gals get theirs, whether financially, physically, or by being outed for the scum that they are. Some level of cosmic balance is restored. Evil doesn’t always win.

That said, the characters seeking vengeance aren’t always the nicest. Two of my favorite revenge films are JOHN WICK and the KILL BILL duology. In both cases, the protagonist is a reformed assassin who tried to walk the straight and narrow only to be dragged back into the murk by denizens of their former life. The films are violent and profanity-laced, yet stylish. In JOHN WICK, the assassin culture holds an edgy attraction with its strictly enforced code of behavior, refuge hotel, even its own currency. KILL BILL’s female assassins aren’t as regimented, but each is stylish in her own way, powerful, and utterly ruthless.

Not all revenge films are gory cussfests. KIND HEARTS AND CORONETS, a 1949 British film, features a protagonist who, while bent on avenging the mistreatment of his mother, is also a decidedly unreformed cad, albeit a charming one. The film also features Alec Guinness in multiple roles, which is reason enough to watch.

A film that’s quite different in tone from the others mentioned here is INSIDE MAN, a 2006 film directed by Spike Lee. There are no stylish killers or wronged relatives. The events and characters are more everyday. I’ve watched it several times, and am still not 100% sure whether vengeance was the original motivation for the crime that drives the story. Suffice it to say that there was grave injustice done, and the wheels of vengeance set in motion. A satisfying conclusion for the characters and the audience.

Do you have favorite tales of revenge?

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About Kristine Smith

Kristine Smith is the author of the Jani Kilian series and a number of SF and fantasy short stories, and is a winner of the John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer. She worked as a pharmaceutical process development scientist for 26 years, but now writes full-time. She also writes supernatural thrillers under the name Alex Gordon. Check out her BVC bookshelf


Revenge is a dish best savored… — 8 Comments

  1. I guess Gully Foyle in ‘The Stars My Destination’? Also ‘Pale Rider’.

  2. Probably my oldest revenge fave is Count of Monte Cristo, but my current fave, head and shoulders above any TV I’ve seen in decades, is not so much about revenge as it is justice: Nirvana in Fire, a 54 episode Chinese pseudo-history with wuxia overlay. I’ve watched it three times, in preference to any American television, and each time I get more out of it.

  3. The Italian Job (particularly the second version, with Mark Wahlberg and Charlize Theron). It’s a caper movie, but the underlying reason is a very satisfying revenge tale.

  4. My whole family got addicted to the TV show “Revenge.” There was something compelling and delicious about watching the various characters take their revenge on each other, and seeing what that cost them.

  5. I remember a PBS adaptation of a 1920s or 1930s era short story. A woman who had been jilted won the man back–he well and truly fell in love with her. I don’t recall much except the ending, which was very quiet and very satisfactory.

    I wish I could remember the title.

  6. The movie “Hopscotch”. Small-minded jerk Ned Beatty tries to screw over Walter Matthau into a desk job at the CIA under his thumb. Matthau gets way more than even. Plus he gets Glenda Jackson. And the movie features Sam Waterston. My favorite go-to movie for when life is dumping on me.

  7. Not a movie but a book on this theme: Not a penny more, not a penny less by Jeffrey Archer.
    Four people con the conman who stole their savings out of the exact amount he took from them, through four ingenious cons of their own. No violence, more in the style of The Italian job, an enjoyable read.