Vengeance: A Love Story is a gritty thriller which its lead, Nicolas Cage, was originally slated to direct, but instead chose to produce alongside Michael Mendelsohn, who also took the same reins with Cage’s recent wartime real-life drama, USS Indianapolis: Men of Courage.
Based on Joyce Carol Oates‘ novel, Rape: A Love Story, a title which wouldn’t have worked on Amazon’s shelves so it’s best they changed it, Cage is Gulf War veteran-turned-cop John Dromoor, who meets young single mother Teena (Anna Hutchison) and discovers they have a connection in that they both lost someone dear to them, not so long ago. Alas, before anything can develop between them, on the way back from a party, Teena is violently attacked by a group of stoners and left for dead, all right in front of her daughter, Bethie (Talitha Bateman).
Everything’s all set for a courtroom drama, but that might or might not pan out the way you expect since Dromoor fancies dishing out his own brand of vengeance, if he gets the chance.
With Cage looking nicely mean and moody, I’ve always enjoyed watching Don Johnson since back in the days of Miami Vice (and I even bought his Heartbeat LP and played that until it melted – the final track – the haunting Can’t Take Your Memory – is one of the all-time best ballads you’ve never heard of). Here, Don Johnson is electrifying as Jay Kirkpatrick, giving a cool, assured performance as the lawyer for the defence, trying to defend the indefensible.
It doesn’t end there, since while it’s a rare film that gets an 18-certificate these days, this one doesn’t hold back on the brutal attack suffered by Teena, and Anna Hutchison follows this up, really making the film her own, putting in a breathtaking performance as her character begins to attempt to come to terms with her horrendous ordeal.
I was particularly looking forward to Mr Johnson in this, but all of the cast are on-point in this movie, and they each get their moment to shine, including Talitha Bateman as Bethie, the sole witness in the case, since Teena was rendered unconscious by the attack.
It also feels weird to see Deborah Kara Unger as the grandma in a film, since I remember her best in Crash, looking so damn hot. She still has it going on here, too.
If the film has any downsides, it’s a little uneven at times, as the actual vengeance scenes are a bit rushed and not as fulfilling as they should be, but most of the rest of the film performs like a powerhouse when it could easily have fallen into the ‘Channel 5 TV Movie’ trap.
Note: This review is for the film only.
Running time: 99 minutes
Studio: 101 Films
Released: March 27th 2017
Director: Johnny Martin
Producers: Nicolas Cage and Michael Mendelsohn
Screenplay: John Mankiewicz (based on the novel, Rape: A Love Story, by Joyce Carol Oates)
Music: Frederik Wiedmann
John Dromoor: Nicolas Cage
Teena: Anna Hutchison
Jay Kirkpatrick: Don Johnson
Leila Fick: Kaleigh Rivera
Agnes: Deborah Kara Unger
JJ Breen: Michael Papajohn
Bethie Maguire: Talitha Bateman
Marvin Fick: Joshua Mikel
Walter Fick: Dikran Tulaine
Lloyd Fick: Rocco Nugent
Ray Casey: Cory Scott Allen
Judge Schpiro: Mike Pniewski
Father Muldoon: Xavier Declie
Fritz Haaber: Carter Burch
Ursula: Emily Sandifer
Annie: Elizabeth Hunter
Det. Lyle: Dwayne Boyd
Dr. Carroll: Zach Sale
Dr. Collins: Marc Coppola
Danny: Elijah Marcano
Louise: Aislin Freya Pax
Wendy: Elise DuQuette
Jessica: Lorraine Rodriguez-Reyes
Hospital Receptionist: Elena Sanchez
Assistant Prosecutor Dixon: Kara Flowers
Night Nurse: Jwaundace Candece
Night Nurse: Natalie Pero
Paramedic: Dawn Young-McDaniel
Trooper Craig: Rey Hernandez