Wednesday, June 5, 2024

Revenge (1990): A Review (Review #1818)


When I think of Revenge, the term "generic" fits. Everything in Revenge is generic, starting from the title down to the plot and performances. Revenge, I figure, tries for something. One, by the end though, is not sure exactly what.

Michael "J" Cochran (Kevin Costner) has just retired from the U.S. Navy. With nothing but time and some disposable income on his hands, he opts to visit an old friend down Mexico way. That would be Tiburon "Tibby" Mendez (Anthony Quinn), a powerful kingmaker in Mexican politics. J once saved Tibby's life and Tibby has been forever grateful.

He might not be so grateful if he figured out that his much younger, beautiful trophy wife Mireya (Madeleine Stowe) needed some love, attention and affection. It does not help that despite her requests, Tibby will not impregnate her. It is not long before the hunky American and the luscious Latina begin a very torrid affair.

Their affair takes a while to be discovered, but discovered it is. Despite Tiburon having a slew of mistresses, he is quietly enraged at Mireya's own unfaithfulness. Tibby appears duped, but he's anything but. Tibby's revenge is brutal: burning down J's Mexican love nest, brutally beating J and leaving him for dead, slashing Mireya's face and dumping her in a whorehouse. Here, he gives instructions that she be used 50 times a day, using colorful language to make himself understood.

J, however, is not dead. He survives, is nursed back to health, finds a kind but dying American horse vendor and begins his own march to find Mireya. Along the way, others join J for their own motives against Tibby, but Tibby's revenge against Mireya has taken and unexpected and deadly turn. Will J and Mireya reunite before it is too late?

Revenge is surprisingly long at slightly over two hours. I think this is due to Jim Harrison, who wrote the novella on which Revenge is based on and cowrote the screenplay with Jeffrey Alan Fiskin. It is nearly a whole hour before J and Mireya consummate their desires, so the audience is left with a lot of buildup to the inevitable.

Same goes for once J is fully revealed in more ways than one. I do not know if Harrison thought having the dying horse vendor would make us sad or sympathetic to both that character or J himself. It did end up coming across as more a cliché than a real element of sadness. It is not as if he served much of a purpose apart from getting J his vehicle. 

As I think on it, a lot of Revenge does not have things that fit together. Late in the film, Sally Kirkland comes on as a rock band road manager. She flirts with a nonresponsive J, is there when other men come to join him to get their own revenge on Tibby, and then honestly I forgot what happened to her. From what I understood, the timeframe between when J and Mireya meet to when they have sex is five days. 

I think one of Revenge's great issues is with director Tony Scott, who seemed more interested in the look of the film than the film itself. We get lots and I mean lots of images of flowing curtains when Mireya and J are together. We even get them when they are apart, such as when Mireya is trapped in the whorehouse. Revenge focuses on looking very pretty but not on much else.

Revenge is so sluggish in its pacing as to be glacial. That goes for almost all the acting. It becomes an informal contest to see which of our leads can appear so disinterested and disengaged from things. Costner, I think, is the winner, his J coming across as less ardent lover and more as bored throughout. Stowe at least has something of a rationale for coming across as drugged: Mireya was drugged at a certain point in the film. That, however, does not excuse how bored and removed she is prior to her dramatic turn. She can't be bothered to show that Mireya loves Tibby, likes Tibby, tolerates Tibby, hates Tibby. Stowe's performance shows she does not even think about Tibby. She might not even be aware of Tibby.

Anthony Quinn is more engaged, though that is not always a good thing. He is close to hamming things up, but only skims the edges of camp. It might have been more fun if he had gone over-the-top, especially when seeing his goons go after J and Mireya in their love shack. I will say Quinn is fun to watch. I can't say whether he is fun to watch because he is good or because he is so bad it's good. The man's name is literally "Shark" (which is what Tiburon translates to). 

Revenge is too long, too dull and too focused on how it looks to be worth watching. If there is any Revenge to be had,  it is on the unsuspecting audience who endures all two hours of it.


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