VENGEANCE – Rated R – 1 hr. 34 mins.

Written & Directed by B.J. Novak

Starring:  B. J. Novak, Ashton Kutcher, John Mayer, Issa Rae, Lio Tipton, Boyd Holbrook, Isabella Amara, Dove Cameron, and Eli Bickel.

B.J. Novak strikes out to not only write and direct, but star as the lead in his Directorial debut, as we venture into the world of Ben Manalowitz (B. J. Novak), who’s enjoying his east coast life as a journalist, being rather smug about his perfect life, in his perfect town, as he reflects about it all with his best friend John (John Mayer).

When “Mr. East Coast“ finds himself being summoned to Texas, because one of his many random hookups, named Abilene Shaw (Lio Tipton), has died…he finds himself excepting the request by Abilene’s family to attend her funeral, as somehow, they have gotten the impression, that Ben and Abilene’s relationship was much more serious, than it actually was…

Now, thrust into a part of this country that he most definitely does not fit in to, Abilene’s big brother Ty Shaw (Boyd Holbrook) convinces Ben to stay around their little Texas town for a little while longer, in order to avenge Abilene’s death, which was no overdose as far as Ty is concerned.  Ben is intrigued by the opportunity that he sees right before his eyes – to produce a fabulous new episode for his podcast – taking in the thoughts of everyone who ever knew Abilene, before she met with her demise.  Enter Ben’s producer Eloise (Issa Rae), who at first isn’t sure what Ben’s up to, flying across country for a girl that he barely knew, but when he convinces her that this is the story, he’s been in search of to kickstart his career, Eloise decides that this story might just end up being Ben’s chance to really make a name for himself…

Now, as Ben tries to adjust to the societal norms of this “other part of the world”, he finds too that this gun slinging, fist-fighting, tight knit family that Abilene was a part of, might just find a way to sway his perspectives of what’s right, and wrong in this world…

(L to R) Actor Issa Rae and director/writer/actor B.J. Novak on the set of VENGEANCE, a Focus Features release. Credit: Patti Perret / Focus Features

(L to R) B.J. Novak as Ben Manalowitz and Boyd Holbrook as Ty Shaw in VENGEANCE, written and directed by B.J. Novak and released by Focus Features. Credit: Patti Perret / Focus Features
(L to R) Boyd Holbrook as Ty Shaw and B.J. Novak as Ben Manalowitz in VENGEANCE, written and directed by B.J. Novak and released by Focus Features. Credit: Patti Perret / Focus Features
(L to R) Clint Obenchain as Crawl, B.J. Novak as Ben Manalowitz and Boyd Holbrook as Ty Shaw in VENGEANCE, directed and written by B.J. Novak, released by Focus Features. Credit: Patti Perret/Focus Features
B.J. Novak as Ben Manalowitz in VENGEANCE, written and directed by B.J. Novak and released by Focus Features. Credit: Patti Perret / Focus Features
(L to R) Ashton Kutcher as Quentin Sellers and B.J. Novak as Ben Manalowitz in VENGEANCE, written and directed by B.J. Novak and released by Focus Features. Credit: Patti Perret / Focus Features

I give VENGEANCE a rating of 2 out of 5 Stars:  If you are looking to take in a film that will make you think about what you just experienced, long after you leave the theater, then this one might be for you.  And if you think that our societal norms are shifting so drastically that you find yourself pining for a different time, and place, then you might be excited to take this one into too.  But, for me, this film billed as a Thriller/Comedy…actually ends up fulfilling neither of those genres, as I was thrilled at any point and don’t remember doing more than chuckling a time or two throughout the entire film!!!  I mean, I understand that when someone writes a film, chooses to direct it, and makes themselves the lead too, they have a certain message that they feel compelled to share with the world.  But, with that said, B.J. Novak missed the mark in this psychological mishap of a film, as he takes his perspective on life, love, and our many society pitfalls, way down the rabbit hole.  This saddened me as I viewed it too, because he pulled together a fantastic cast that is spot on for their respective roles, yet never giving any of them the opportunity to reach their full potential.  This one also moved so slow while sharing its less than intriguing storyline, that I found myself fighting off snoozing through a significant part of this painful satire, as it all played out.  Plus, I also felt that this film should have been named something else besides VENGEANCE, as this name is way too strong for the material that ended up on screen, just adding to the underwhelmed feeling that this film ended up giving me, when it was all said and done…

2 out of 5 Stars

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