Thursday, April 14, 2016
(February 1990, U.S.)
Despite being a film by Tony Scott and starring Kevin Constner, I suspect that REVENGE, based on Jim Harrison's original novella, went relatively unnoticed twenty-six years ago and has likely been all-but-forgotten today. For the late Tony Scott, it was a film in a small string of less-than-blockbuster films he made in between TOP GUN (1986) and CRIMSON TIDE (1995), though in all fairness, I loved BEVERLY HILLS COP II (1987) and I still do. For Kevin Costner, it was the middle film in between a succession of three back-to-back hits that began with THE UNTOUCHABLES in 1987 and ended with JFK in 1991. I suppose anything that happens to fall in the middle of anything can easily become lost in a massive shuffle. Too bad, because in my opinion, REVENGE is a highly worthwhile film of not only, well...revenge, but also love, devotion and loyalty.
In a manner that practically picks up where TOP GUN left off four years earlier, the film begins with the final wild flight of United States Naval Aviator Jay Cochran (Costner) just before retiring to a relaxing civilian life. He travels to Mexico, accepting an invitation from his wealthy crime boss friend Tiburon "Tibey" Mendez to spend time at his hacienda. He meets a beautiful young woman riding a horse who is Tibey's wife, Miryea (played by Madeline Stowe), who lives in lavish surroundings but is very unhappy because her much-older husband doesn't want children. Believing himself to be a guest of Tibey's rather than a common employee, Jay easily says no to his powerful friend and acts very independently, which rubs Tibey's suspicious right-hand man Cesar (played by Tomas Milian) the wrong way. After a dinner one evening, Tibey conducts a private meeting with business associates (in which one of them is murdered) while Miryea gets acquainted with Jay. Of course, she becomes attracted to him and the feeling is mutual. Jay cannot ignore the situation, both the attraction and the danger, or as he puts it, "Who we are and where we are!" Still, the attraction and the tension persistently grows until they can no longer control themselves and end up having passionate sex in a coat closet during a party with Tibey among the guests outside. Two words - NOT GOOD! On the other hand, if you have the opportunity to fuck Madeline Stowe (back in 1990, anyway!) in a coat closet, you likely take it, right? However, the film is more about the love between them and the betrayal of loyalty against his long-time friend that Jay struggles with more than anything else. Jay knows he's a dead man for what he's done, but still can't resist the forbidden fruit, whether it's getting distracted by Miryea's delicious-looking legs while driving his jeep on a deserted road or stopping to swim naked with her...
Well, as predictability would have it, Jay and Miryea are inevitably caught and all hell breaks loose. Tibey slashes his wife's face and commits her to a local whorehouse to spend the rest of her life getting drugged, abused and "fucked fifty times a day". Jay is beaten senseless by Tibey's men and left for dead somewhere in Mexico. Through some good Mexican Samaritans and a few local contacts looking to get their own revenge against Tibey, Jay recovers and braves a path of determination and violence against those who beat him and eventually comes face to face with Tibey. At this point, it would be easy to say that REVENGE could end in the traditional manner of a good get-even kill, but the film takes a surprising turn at the climactic moment. Rather than end up with one or two dead bodies, Tibey suddenly recalls what the two men once meant to each other, and in an inspirational moment of manly honor, asks Jay to formally ask him (Tibey) for forgiveness for taking his wife away from him. The end can go either way now, but Jay suddenly also realizes the importance of friendship and honor and lowers his gun to ask for that forgiveness. It's such a simple idea, yet so different by way of the traditional ending of any revenge film. Although the two men will never be friends again, they both survive and Jay is directed to the convent where Miryea is dying. Now, call it corny sentimentalism or just plain, old sappy mush, but I still believe nothing is more tragic and effective when telling the story of true love than having one person die in the arms of the other. I suppose the writers of REVENGE understand that, too, because when that sort of moment takes place in the face of Miryea's death, we can't help share the sorrow that Jay experiences in not only having lost the love of his life, but the valuable friendship of Tibey Mendez, as well.
I'll mention again that the year 1990 was (and still remains) the worst year of my adult life. That in mind, I tend to examine the films of that year that I post with just a little more sensitive scrutiny and memory. To reflect upon that year and the strong love I felt for a girl who did not return that love leaves me wondering what I was thinking at that time having gone to see such a strong-spirited love story in the first place. Perhaps I expected more thrills than love...who knows. I do remember walking out of the movie theater feeling like real shit, despite having enjoyed the film. Decades later, I've clearly gotten over the love crap of that time of my life, but still hold REVENGE with a certain degree of extra sensitivity regarding who I was back then and who I've become since. A better and stronger person, I hope...most of the time, anyway.
Favorite line or dialogue:
Cesar: "You looking for someone, Mr. Cochran?"
Jay Cochran: "No. Is someone looking for me?"
Cesar: "No, sir."
Jay: "Cesar, let's get it straight. I don't like you, you don't like me, right? So if I'm looking for someone, it's none of you business! You understand?"