MEASURE OF REVENGE
“Measure of Revenge” is a taut throwback revenge thriller. This film is equal parts Shakespearian tragedy, family melodrama, and neo-noir mystery. Despite being set in modern-day New York, the themes of the film root it alongside the pulpy classics of the 70s. Through this lens, the city remains dark and dangerous even in the daylight.
Melissa Leo stars as Lillian Cooper, a veteran stage actress who happens to be the mother of a rock star. When her son, Curtis (“Animal Kingdom”’s Jake Weary), and his fiancé are found dead during Lillian’s final on-stage performance, she immediately suspects foul play. Despite the death being ruled an accidental overdose, she sets off to get her own answers. This journey draws her to the mysterious Taz (Bella Thorne), who happens to conveniently be both Curtis’ ex-lover as well as his drug dealer (don’t you hate it when that happens?). Lillian also increasingly relies on ghostly apparitions of her own previous Shakespearian roles. These visions (or are they merely hallucinations?) inspire and propel her forward in her quest for clarity and vengeance.
I appreciated the way the film leaned into its theater roots without becoming too highbrow. There’s clearly a linkage between Lilian’s decisions and her performances of Hamlet and Lady Macbeth, but you also don’t leave the film feeling like you need to get a Ph.D. in Shakespeare. Leo does justice to Lillian’s trauma and sorrow, but she also imbues her with a winking charm. This film features one of the best-planned alibis I’ve seen in a thriller, and some of the methods Lillian employs for revenge were positively refreshing in today’s age of shoot-em-up thrillers. When a gun goes off in this film, it means something.
Thorne is a welcome presence as Taz, but I wish she had been a little more utilized. She has good chemistry with Leo, but so much of this film hinges on her previous relationship with Curtis. I would have loved a flashback of their interaction, even if it provided the audience with more questions than answers.
Leo and Thorne are backed by an excellent supporting cast. Weary sure looks the part of a rock star, but I couldn’t get over how obviously dubbed his singing was during musical scenes. He and Leo have a beautiful soft dynamic together. I could watch Adrian Martinez in anything, and he provides a necessary bit of levity as the body count rises. I especially appreciated the way that Michael Potts’ Detective Eaton evolved over the course of the film. His final exchange with Leo sends the film off on a high note.
Shakespeare wrote in Merchant of Venice: “Truth will come to sight; murder cannot be hid long.” A simple statement, but it has generated countless stories over the years. Maybe “Measure of Revenge” is just another one of these stories, but Shakespeare would be happy to see they gave him his share of the credit.
In Theaters, on Digital and On Demand March 18th, 2022
DIRECTED BY: Peyfa
STARRING: Melissa Leo, Bella Thorne, Jake Weary
RUN TIME: 92 minutes