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DVD ReviewsRating: 2.5 of 5 yaps

Vengeance

The Hong Kong thriller, “Vengeance” reminded me why I love the crime genre and specifically revenge films. By putting us in the shoes of the bereaved, these films test our emotions and moral boundaries amidst violence. They expose us to our deepest, darkest capabilities. Unfortunately, “Vengeance” does not entirely succeed in that regard.

“Vengeance” follows Francis Costello (Johnny Hallyday), an ordinary man pushed to extraordinary measures when his daughter’s husband and children are brutally murdered. He hires three hitmen to help him track the killers and avenge his family.

The film is spare and simple, as simple as the act of vengeance itself. Therein lies the problem. Revenge is such an easily, universally understood motive that it often seduces filmmakers into skimping on character development.

Writer Wai Ka Fai and director Johnnie To present us with four monosyllabic characters driven only by loss and repulsion toward unjust violence. We learn nothing of Costello’s relationship with his daughter or his past other than vague details of his former career as a chef and hints of a history of violence.

Oh, wait, I forgot to mention Costello’s rapidly fading memory. How could I forget such a crucial detail? Well, I forgot because it is tacked on near the end of the film. His memory loss adds urgency to his quest for vengeance. At times, it also serves as manifestation of his guilt for resorting to violence. More often than not, it is nothing more than an unoriginal homage to “Memento” complete with Costello writing on Polaroid photographs.

There are some competent but bland action scenes, competent but bland performances and slickly photographed Hong Kong vistas.

“Vengeance” is watchable and impressively made, but it will evaporate from your memory.

The special features section of the DVD is as barren as the film’s soul and thematic terrain. It includes nothing more than a trailer and a standard making-of featurette.

Movie: 2.5 Yaps

Extras: 1.5 Yaps

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