I’ve been meditating on for a while on the whole “revenge thriller” genre. Thinking about some of the oldest revenge stories, we’ve got Gilgamesh (kind of), The Iliad (kind of), Osiris and Isis (kind of), and the basic setup is effectively simple: show us an everyman/everywoman, show a small portion of this person’s life… as a parent, as a spouse maybe. You don’t need to go too deep into this, you can just show them being pleasant and establish how much they love someone in their charge. Then, you take this person in their charge, and kill them. (Okay, you don’t *HAVE* to kill them. There are plenty of awful things that can be done. It’s a nice day though and so we’ll try to keep it to somewhere around “killing” for the sake of this series of random thoughts.)
Built around these old conventions, however, are some interesting little pieces that tie each story to their particular era and can make each one a little time capsule. Death Wish is probably the perfect Revenge Flick example from the 70’s. Such a perfect example, actually, that trying to remember a similar movie from the 80’s gave me trouble and when I started googling for help, the best example of a revenge flick was The Princess Bride, of all things. (Seriously. We didn’t have a more Death Wish than Death Wish movie until the 90’s when we got The Crow which is, itself, a lovely little 90’s time capsule.)
The oughts gave us Man on Fire, Taken, and The Brave One and we’re a little too close to the oughts, if you ask me, to see the little time capsule pieces in those films but, I’m certain, we’ll be able to look back at them and see the various things looming over the story that viewers in the theater when it was released would have ignored the same way that fish are able to ignore water.
Which brings me to 2010’s Edge of Darkness. It’s a Mel Gibson film in which he plays an everyman (police officer variant) who is a fairly decent enough father whose daughter gets murdered in, like, the first five minutes of the movie. It’s like the director was getting all antsy and just said that nobody comes to these for the setup, just for the denouement, so let’s GET TO THE DENOUEMENT ALREADY!!!! After the first five minutes, the denouement takes a little too much time to get rolling (seriously, we could have spent that time with everybody being nice to each other!) but culminates in a lovely little Hamletian finish where the only guy not dead is the person whose job it is to tell everyone that the film is over, go home.
But “More Death Wish than Death Wish” it ain’t. So if you’re hoping for that, you can look forward to the Bruce Willis remake of Death Wish that is currently in the works. I imagine that twitter will play a role.
So… what are you reading and/or watching?
(Featured Image is “Edison’s Telephonoscope” by George du Maurier from Punch Almanack for 1879)