3 1/2 Stars
Even though Vengeance: A Love Story is utterly predictable every step of the way, it’s still captivating due to good writing, tense direction, and some fantastic performances. They say most of directing is in casting. If that’s true director Johnny Martin has an eye for talent. The picture has been uniformly cast to perfection and our emotional attachment to the characters are due to the strong acting all around. The film is based on the 2003 novel Rape: A Love Story by Joyce Carol Oates, the title change is for obvious reasons.
Teena McGuire (Anna Hutchison) is a stunning young woman in her mid-twenties. On July 4th, after a night of drinking and dancing, Teena is brutally gang raped and left for dead by a group of men she went knew in high-school. This horrendous act is witnessed by Teena’s pre-teen daughter (Talitha Bateman), who is able to call for help and save her mom’s life. It’s the daughter who later identifies the men responsible in a police line-up.
Office John Dromoor (Nicolas Cage) is a semi-hero cop, who had a chance encounter with Teena before her attack. He is also the responding officer to the distress call and this forms a bond between Teena, her daughter, and the cop. When the family of the rapists’ calls in a big-shot lawyer (Don Johnson), the prosecution’s case is crushed. Now, facing only minimal prison time, the men are being picked off by Dormoor in a non-incriminating manner.
Vengeance: A Love Story is Nicolas Cage’s 82nd acting credit according to IMDB. And while he’s the headliner in the credits, I’d bet he has less than fifteen minutes of total screen time throughout. That’s not a complaint but a heads up to Cage Aficionados (myself included) who may be surprised at how much intelligence and power this low-key thriller contains. Outstanding performances from Hutchison, Bateman, and Johnson are the film’s highlights.
Director: Johnny Martin
Stars: Nicolas Cage, Don Johnson, Anna Hutchison