Thursday, August 30, 2007

Revenge is a dish best served ... well, many ways

One sure sign that it's the end of August is that the movies that get dumped in these dog days just make me think of better ones that preceeded them.

Even though Kevin Bacon was a reliable soldier on CBS' "Early Show" (or whatever it's called) the other day as he claimed with a straight face that James Wan's "Death Sentence" will seriously explore the dark side of revenge, I think I'll just have to pass. I'll be spending my holiday weekend like most Americans: Watching college football and attending a barbecue or two, and maybe getting caught up on either "Heroes" or "Friday Night Lights" on DVD.

Besides, as with most things I enjoy, I often take my revenge on the big screen with more than a little dose of silly, simply because I like to laugh. Here are 10 flicks, some silly and some not, in which revenge plays a big part and I just can't get enough of (and, though they're numbered, they're indeed in no particular order):

1. Revenge of the Nerds
Because, after all, who in the world deserves revenge more than nerds? As far as I can tell, McG's rather insidious plan to remake this has died, or at least I hope so. To hear someone probably much wiser than me on the subject wax poetic about the virtues of this flick, watch Toby riff on it in "American Splendor." Heck, just watch "American Splendor" anyway if you somehow haven't seen it yet.

2. Oldboy
No director has made a better career out of revenge flicks than Korea's Chan-Wook Park, and this one would have to be my favorite. It can be hard to take at times, but watching Min-Sik Choi find out who held him captive for 15 years and get his vengeance (before they inflict further pain on him) is a one-of-a-kind experience.

3. Jackie Brown
Quentin Tarantino obviously tried his hardest to make a "revenge" flick with "Kill Bill," and mostly succeeded, but I'll still take "Jackie Brown" every time. It's still my favorite of the Tarantino flicks, and watching Pam Grier square off against Samuel L. Jackson will never get old to me.

4. Election
Remember, I did say silly, right? Of all the revenge flicks set in the hell that is high school, this one is still the best, both because it's Reese Witherspoon vs. Matthew Broderick and because, adorable as Reece is, you just want to crush Tracey Flick's head long before the flick ends.

5. Taxi Driver
Though I managed to omit "Death Wish" from this list, you really can't snub "Taxi Driver." Even if it has created a long list of cringe-worthy imitators (including this week's entry, of course), Scorsese's movie stands up well over time, and De Niro was rarely better than as the ball-of-rage that was Travis Bickle.

6. Rushmore
After all, what better to drive a man to vengeance than love? Although this movie has so many charms, my favorite moment might just be the look of relief on Herman Blume's face after Max Fischer calls off his vendetta in front of the barbershop. "I'll take punctuality."

7. The Limey
This is the only movie I can think of, at least off the top of my head, in which I liked Terrence Stamp, though surely there must be more. Not nearly as cool or clever as Steven Soderbergh's "Out of Sight," but it's still a reminder that when he puts his mind to it the man can direct a lean, mean thriller.

8. Get Carter
The Michael Caine original, of course, not the Sly Stallone remake (which I concede I haven't seen.) What I love about this movie is how it unfolds so slowly until the last half hour or so, when Caine's gangster unleashes the bloodbath you knew was coming from the start.

9. Bully
If you're considering moving to south Florida, I'd strongly advise watching this cautionary tale from Larry Clark first. Based on the true story of a group of teens who plot to take out the titular "Bully" (Nick Stahl, if I remember correctly), it's as chilling as it is entertaining. And, finally ...

10. Office Space
Though Ron Livingston is still a fairly young dude, I'm sure he'll never make another movie with the staying power of this one. Just in case you've forgotten just how cathartic watching this flick can be after a long day at work, I've included a YouTube clip of Michael Bolton and friends taking out their frustations on the fax machine, to the soothing strains of the Geto Boys. Feel free to add any revenge flicks that you can watch over and over again, and have an entirely suckfree Thursday.


jeremy said...

What? No Payback? Just kidding.
Its a shame that Oldboy got noticed in relation to the Virginia Tech shootings. I don't think I'll be able to watch it again, even though I remember enjoying it when I saw it way back when.
As for Terrence Stamp--you didn't like him as Zod in Supe2? Or in drag in Priscilla QotD?

Reel Fanatic said...

Ah .... I knew there were at least a couple I had forgotten in my early-morning haze ... Those are indeed to Stamp performances to remember

Chalupa said...

Would Boondock Saints be a revenge movie or is that vigilanty-ism?

Others I thought of are V for Vendetta, Rambo, and Tank (with James Garner).

Great selection here though. Old Boy, Taxi Driver, Jackie Brown and Rushmore are all way up there for me. Office Space also happens to be my 2nd favorite movie of all time.

Marina said...

Another excellent list and this time around I'm happy to say I've seen most of the films. Great choice in "Office Space". Not one that would immediately come to mind but it certainly has some sweet revenge!

Mercurie said...

When it comes to revenge movies, I think my favourites are V For Vendetta (part of V's motivation was revenge), the 1934 version of The Count of Monte Cristo, and 2002 version. Edmund Dantes seemed to be a master at revenge!

Reel Fanatic said...

V for Vendetta was indeed one that almost made the cut here, and I'm glad to hear it get so much respect ... There have been very few (if any) comic-book movies as smart as that one ... And, Mercurie, I would put Boondock Saints more in the vigilante category, but the rules here are about as loose as they can get, so I'll take that one too

Fletch said...

Nice to see some lovers of Jackie Brown. Though I'd still have to choose Pulp as #1, Jackie and True Romance are right up there.

I like Terrence Stamp even when he's bad. He's like a British Jon Voight.

Bob said...

Any list with both "Rushmore" and "The Limey" is cool with me.

"You tell him I'm coming!"

Emma said...

Good list, I'd also add Carrie, Gladiator, and the one, the only, The Lion King.

Reel Fanatic said...

Carrie was one that was right on the brink of making my list, Emma, but since I already had two high school flicks it had to go ... As far as one single revenge scene goes, however, Carrie at the prom would just about have to be the tops

Divinity said...

Would Serial Mom count? She does her deeds in the name of righting wrongs in her twisted mind... that's kind of reveng-y. Maybe it would fit in better on the spoof list! :)
Red Sonya comes to mind as well ... but probably only my mind.

Divinity said...

Oops, that should be "Sonja", I think.

Reel Fanatic said...

Serial Mom certainly counts in my book, Divinity, because I have nothing but love for John Waters .. In "Serial Mom," I particularly loved the crazy scene that was filmed at the now-defunct Hammerjack's rock club