5. Ms. 45 (1981)
Abel Ferrara’s rape-and-revenge movie might be the best of the subgenre. No exaggeration. It’s made on a very small budget as usual with him, and got terrible reviews when it first came out but since then its cult following had been grown. It helped that Ferrara had somewhat of a famous streak with “King of New York” and “Bad Lieutenant” back to back in the early 90s. If we have to give a short summary, the movie plot is basically it: After being raped, a mute young woman becomes a cold-blooded murderer of a dozen men.
Still, “Ms. 45” deserves more recognition because it’s not your average “woman got raped and then took a revenge” type of story. It’s more frightening, more surprising, more unusual type. Stylistically very different than average revenge or exploitation movie of the era. Even the narrative feels somewhat unpredictable and the film is more complex than you’d expect. It’s certainly gritty and nasty, as you’d expect from Ferrara but also not so simple as you’d think.
4. The Limey (1999)
Terence Stamp’s career is so weird. At the early on, he was a big star, a major sex symbol who also got parts in European auteurs like Fellini and Pasolini. Then he got disappeared until “Superman” roles revied his career. He had been steadily working since but he’s getting great parts only once in a while, may it be “The Hit”, “The Adventures of Priscilla” and in this case, “The Limey”, one of Steven Soderbergh’s most underrated but also best films.
It has received good reviews but like several other films on the list, flopped at the box office. Straightforward revenge plot ends up having more depth in the hands of Stamp and Soderbergh. The stylistically it’s wonderfully involving, his way of using flashbacks gives another dimension to the film and not the mention, there’s a lot of wonderfully dry sense of humor in the film. With its well-written dialogues and avant-garde touches, “The Limey” feels strikingly original.
3. The Hunting Party (2007)
“Only the most ridiculous parts of this story are true”. If we’re talking about underrated filmmakers, Richard Shepherd must be right there. Just check his filmography and you’ll see everything from a wonderful crime film “The Matador” to a rom-comish crime film starring David Bowie. “The Hunting Party” is one of his bests and finds Richard Gere at one of his best performances. Richard knows how to use these movie stars best known for their charm for something more eccentric and unusual. Gere plays an American journalist in Bosnia in mid-90s reporting on the Bosnian War. In parallel, he has managed to romance a local Muslim girl who is pregnant with his child. However, she gets killed and Gere vows on a revenge.
This storyline might make you think it’s just a common revenge movie. It’s definitely is not. It’s a politically provocative, unpredictable story with some truly funny moments and a lot of exciting scenes. Well-acted all around, the movie has something to say about various topics from media to modern-day American politics on terror. It’s a very fast-paced and entertaining film but subject matter probably didn’t appeal to masses enough that it flopped hard at the box office. Yet, it’s never too late to re-discover it and give it the proper recognition it deserves.
2. Vengeance (2022)
You know B.J. Novak had the talent from “The Office” but who knew he had this kind of story in him. He wrote, directed and starred in this wonderful film which is one of the more underrated flicks of its year. He plays journalist Ben Manalowitz who writes for “The New Yorker”, wants to have his own hit podcast and lives a metropolitan life of casual romantic relationships. One day he receives a phone call from a stranger, informing him that his “girlfriend” has died of overdose, when it’s one of the many casual relationships he had that he doesn’t remember. At the caller’s insistnace, he flies to Texas and his life will be changed forever.
“Vengeance” is full of interesting characters, witty dialogues, unpredictable storyline and is just so much fun from beginning to start. It has its own thought-provoking moments even. Boyd Holbrook is having so much fun and is the comedic MVP but it’s Ashton Kutcher who surprisingly steal the show with one of the more memorable characters of the year. While it’s about vengeance as can be seen from the title, this one should appeal more to mystery and black comedy fans. Even if you’re not a fan of the genre, you should still check it out.
1. Revanche (2008)
We started the list with European cinema and it’s fitting to end with another one, this time from Austria and this is European cinema, realistic modern narrative cinema in its purest, most beautiful form. While it got proper recognition at the time including an Oscar nomination for Best Film in a Foreign Language, it still deserves to find wider audiences around the world. The film follows an ex-con anmed Alex who plans to flee with his girlfriend Tamara, a Ukrainian prostitute. Then a tragedy occurs and revenge seems ineveitable. Again, like some other titles on the film, this film is also unpredictable. It has a very tense atmosphere with some Hitchockian touches which builds a breathtaking suspense through the entire movie.
Thematically it explores the ideas of guilt, revenge, faith and redemption with so much depth and unlike many other revenge films, this movie has lots of humanity on its core. Lots of great shots here and there that will stick to your mind and very powerfully acted by everyone involved. Then there’s very impressive cinematography and flowing editing work. This is a major film and maybe this word is overused by some, but “masterpiece” really fits here to describe it.