Written by: Lai-yin Leung, Juno Mak, and Ching-Po Wong
Directed by: Ching-Po Wong
Starring: Juno Mak and Sola Aoi
Reviewed by: Brett G.
For the first twenty minutes of Revenge: A Love Story, youíll find it hard to believe youíll so much as crack a smile, much less laugh or find any genuine warmth and love. Its opening volley is a grim, violence filled-affair thatís littered with eviscerated corpses and dead fetuses. Frankly, itís about as bleak as it gets, as the film ruthlessly assaults you with murder and leaves you with even more questions. What could compel a man to not only viciously slaughter a woman, but also rip an unborn baby from her womb?
To reveal these answers, the narrative begins to flashback to reveal the budding relationship between a local store clerk, Kit (Juno Mak), and mentally handicapped Wing (Sola Aoi). After the latterís grandmother passes away, it kicks off a series of tragic events that sees her being raped at the hands of a corrupt police force. Kit is forced to watch on helplessly and is framed by the police, who send him to prison for six months, where he plots his revenge.
That revenge is relentless and unforgiving, as thatís the filmís primary mode. However, Revenge: A Love Story takes a cue from its seemingly contradictory title, as itís both calmly measured and strikingly disorienting. It probes into some very dark, ugly reaches of the human condition almost immediately and returns there swiftly; however, it also manages some poignant, beautiful moments that completely earn the title. This is indeed a love story--a gory, unsettling, and heartbreaking one, but a love story nonetheless. Ching-Po Wong marries all of these elements with remarkable deftness; his direction carries a surety and intensity thatís often revealed in the productionís panache, particularly the incredible camerawork.
Most importantly, he finds the filmís soul in the love story between the two leads, each of whom give fantastic performances. Aoi is wonderfully frail and innocent, while Mak is boyishly charming before his transformation into an angst-ridden avenger. Before that point, the two share some wonderful moments; one comes after Wingís grandmother has passed away, and the two visit a carousel. Wing is confused and still hasnít comprehended the concept of death and cries out for her grandmother, and Kit joins her in her desperate wailing into the night. This is both a profoundly sad and warm moment, as it presents their solidarity against a cruel world.
That cruelty violently intrudes upon them in the disturbing rape sequence. Not only is Wing brutally and relentlessly raped at the hands of multiple police officers, but Kit is also strung up and forced to watch before heís thrown into jail. The casual corruption presented is frightening, as the men coldly revel in their conquest. One gets the feeling that theyíll deserve everything they have coming to them, perhaps. Their ringleader is particularly brutish in his assuredness, as he carries himself with a certain soullessness; interestingly enough, he eventually repents by giving up his police life and trading it in for a position at a local school where he intones the values of forgiveness.
Wing, of course, will have none of that. His vengeance is fiery, swift, and carries an Old-Testament sort of wrath. He is an angry god returned to smite his foes with righteous fury, which is appropriate considering the film is divided into chapters whose titles carry Biblical language. While this is an intimate affair, one senses an overbearing sense of evil itself in the actions committed by both sides. If youíre at all familiar with these types of films that see Asian guys assaulting each other, youíll be suitably prepared for the ruthlessness of it all. This is some very messy, bloody, and searing revenge--there are some images in this film that have been scarred into my brain. Makís transformation into such a vengeful husk is equally impressionable; like those who wronged him, he is also reduced to a callous shell driven only by his rage.
The film draws that comparison out, and it does so in rather unsubtle fashion with a crescendo of destruction. However, it ultimately ends with a haunting image that perhaps reminds us of what could have been. As it turns out, forgiveness might well be the best form of revenge. Itís an interesting turn that feels correct because the film never feels like a glorification of revenge; instead, itís a reminder of the beauty of love, however fleeting and surrounded by mangled corpses it might be. That the brevity of Kit and Wingís love could have been avoided seems to be the saddest thing of all. Buy it!
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