Monday, May 16, 2022

Vendetta, on Redbox

It is not that this is a great movie, but its time is now. Violent crime is way up and progressive DA’s increasingly refuse to prosecute criminals. Inevitably, we are going to see a bounty of vigilante films to supply the need cathartic justice. William Duncan represents a lot of frustrated fathers and family members, when the cops and the system fail him in screenwriter-director Jared Cohn’s Vendetta, which releases tomorrow through Redbox.

Danny Fetter is about to be initiated into his father’s crime syndicate, based in small town Eatonton, Georgia, by gunning down the daughter of William Duncan. She was actually a bad random selection, because her father picked up a lot of skills in Iraq and Afghanistan. The DA is willing to let Fetter plead to a weapons charge and a parole violation, since Duncan did not actually see him pull the trigger. He just tackled Fetter trying to escape.

Instead, Duncan bludgeons the killer to death with a baseball bat. Old man Donnie Fetter and his junkie son Rory think they should be the only ones getting away with murder, so they come after Duncan and his wife. Meanwhile, the super-helpful Detective Chen keeps lecturing Duncan on the need to keep the peace.

There is a reason why the original
Dirty Harry became a sensation when it first released and the sociopolitical circumstances are similar today. However, Dirty Harry was also an excellent film, which Vendetta is not. Yet, it is zeitgeisty, probably more than Cohn intended or realized, because it taps into deep, widely-held anxieties and frustrations.

In light of recent news, it is sad to see Bruce Willis portraying Donnie Fetter. Honestly, this isn’t the role his fans would probably choose for him go out on. (Again,
American Siege was not a great film either, but there is a poignancy to Willis’s performance that arguably redeems it.)

Clive Standen is also pretty dour as Duncan, but that makes sense in the context of the drama. In contrast, Theo Rossi’s Rory is way, annoyingly over the top, perhaps to compensate for Willis’s understatement, but it is too much. Instead, Thomas Jane livens things up portraying Dante, a car thief with a grudge against the Fetters, who throws in with Duncan. It is also amusing to see “Iron” Mike Tyson turn up as Roach, Dante’s chop shop buyer.

For what it’s worth,
Vendetta is Cohn’s best film (we’ve reviewed) since The Horde, but he had some real dregs in between (like Halloween Pussy Trap Kill! Kill!). It is dark, but that is part of why it connects, at least to an extent. There will be better payback movies to come, but this one is here right now. Just okay (at best), but perfectly timed, Vendetta releases tomorrow (5/17) on VOD and via Redbox.