Film Review: VENGEANCE (2022): Deep, Philosophical Comic Thriller Ranks at the Top of the Summer’s Must-See List

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Bj Novak Close Up Vengeance

Vengeance Review

Vengeance (2022) Film Review, a movie written and directed by B.J. Novak, starring B.J. Novak, Ashton Kutcher, Boyd Holbrook, Issa Rae, Ivan Hernandez, Ryan Hammond, Dove Cameron, Eli Bickel, Grayson Berry, John Mayer, Isabella Amara, J. Smith-Cameron, Lio Tipton, Zach Villa and Ben Whitehair.

The new comic thriller, Vengeance, is almost to Texas what Fargo was to Minnesota. Writer/director/star B.J Novak has created one of the most intriguing, funny and complex films I’ve ever seen and every minute of this new film, Vengeance, is filled with thought-provoking suspense and humor that makes it one of the strongest pictures of the year in terms of the way it holds the viewer’s attention from beginning to end.

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B.J. Novak stars as Ben, a journalist for The New Yorker who has a slew of female “acquaintances” who keep him moving and grooving in his high-profile career. As the film begins, Ben is shooting the breeze with a buddy (John Mayer, the musical artist). Ben’s boss, Eloise, is expertly played by the wonderful Issa Rae who steals scenes whenever she appears on screen with her enthusiasm and amazing personality.

This movie’s premise begins a bit like the Matt Reeves film, The Pallbearer, as Ben discovers that a woman he hooked up with (who he didn’t really know so well) named Abilene Shaw (Lio Tipton, quite memorable in flashback sequences interwoven throughout the movie) has died. Ben is requested to appear in person at the funeral. It wouldn’t be logical for Ben to fly to Texas for a funeral of someone he hardly knew but the movie makes it plausible that he does. He finds a story in the fact that Abilene’s brother Ty (Boyd Holbrook) thinks Abilene was murdered. She supposedly died of a drug overdose but apparently, Abilene has never even touched Advil, let alone hard drugs.

However, the story Ben comes upon isn’t all about Abilene. It’s about her unique family complete with two would-be famous sibling sisters (Isabella Amara and Dove Cameron who are total opposites) that are quirky in their own right. Eloise encourages Ben to stay in town to get the full scoop on Texas life and the dysfunctional family which takes Ben in like he was part of the family just because he dated Abilene.

Eli Bickel plays “El Stupido,” Abilene’s young brother who is called as he is for hilarious reasons but he doesn’t speak Spanish so he doesn’t understand it’s an insult, according to Ty and company. There are scenes in which Ben bonds with the younger brother and they are uniquely fascinating in a movie full of great subplots. One of the subplots involves a “record producer” named Quentin Sellers (Ashton Kutcher) who had Abilene as a client at one point. Abilene had headed to New York and supposedly fell in love with Ben who wishes he could guess the password to her cell phone so he could know more about this woman who was a struggling musician.

A hilarious scene has Ben saying he’s rooting for a local university against the wishes of the people surrounding him at the event Ben is attending. A lot happens throughout the film that gives it a very distinct “flavor.” The movie points out a local fast food joint called Whataburger which is just great, according to Abilene’s family but Ben, for the life of him, can’t figure out why it’s so great and what’s different about it from other fast food places until he actually goes there with the family.

Ben bonds with the family while exploiting them for a podcast but the movie is deeper than that. It’s one of the best films about journalism I’ve ever seen. Novak’s performance is absolutely groundbreaking. He plays his role as someone we like but also someone who doesn’t believe he is doing the right thing. The movie takes him through a twisty plot that would give Fargo a run for its money in terms of the way it creates memorable townsfolk amidst a very compelling mystery. The truth isn’t always black or white and the movie successfully deals with the complexity of its premise to the point of opening up conversation starters that will make it an ideal date movie.

Ashton Kutcher has never been better and more than holds his own beside the wonderful Novak. These two play off each other remarkably well towards the end revealing plot points which will simply blow your mind. They’re that thought-provoking and complex in nature. Kutcher reveals layers we’ve never thought were possible from his previous work. Issa Rae is also at the top of her game in one of the best performances she’s ever given even though most of her scenes are on the phone with Ben.

Vengeance is quite simply a masterpiece. It’s entertaining, quirky and downright suspenseful with plenty of humor sprinkled throughout that keeps the movie moving at a fast clip. It lovingly portrays Texas and gives us terrific insights as to why the events that happen occur as they do. Credit B.J. Novak for making one of the most eventful movies of the summer (and of the year) which is certainly the most provocative film of the summer, hands down. Novak’s performance is, in a word, phenomenal. This film should certainly not be missed!

Rating: 10/10

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