A movie like Vengeance is one of those movies you see all over the place being advertised for about a week before it’s in theaters and then it’s quickly pulled and after a while you’d find it in Redbox (or back in the olden days Blockbuster and Hollywood Video). Since it’s distributed through Focus Features and Blumhouse Productions, it’s recently dropped on Peacock about 45 days after it was in theaters.
This is minimum time frame a movie is allowed to go from the theaters to streaming. And anyone watching this movie will know why. It’s just not that good. B.J. Novak wrote, directed and starred in this movie as New York City journalist Ben Manalowitz who’s also a podcaster who receives a phone call late one night from Ty Shaw (Boyd Holbrook) telling him his girlfriend is dead. But Ben doesn’t know who this girlfriend is. Its Ty’s sister, Abilene (Tio Lipton) who Ben briefly hooked up with.
And Ty suspects that that Ben and Abilene must have been very close by all the photos on Abilene’s phone but Ben hardly remembers her. Still Ben decides to fly to west Texas to attend her funeral. But he delivers a eulogy that people feel is too authenitic. And Ty talks him into taking vengeance on the people responsible for Abilene’s death. She died of an overdose but everyone insists that Abilene didn’t take even Advil.
However, Ben sees this as an opportunity to do a podcast and calls his podcast producer, Eliose (Issa Rae) and talks her into it. If this sounds familiar, it’s basically the same as Only Murders in the Building. But while that series co-created by Steve Martin (who also stars) actually works as it builds on eccentric characters of an affluent Manhattan residential building. This movie plays on too many stereotypes that in 2022 seem very childish and juvenile. Ty and Abilene’s family is a bunch of southern bumpkin stereotypes who love Whataburger as if it’s Dorisa from American Psycho.
This type of movie may have worked for The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas 40 years ago, but it’s hard to believe they would be this primitive. And it makes me wonder why a filmmaker like Novak might think it’s funny. The law enforcement are portrayed as the typical Barney Fife-like characters. Everyone seems to walk around in cowboy attire and attend rodeos. There’s even suspicion that a drug dealer, Sancholo (Zach Villa) is behind Abilene’s death just because he’s Hispanic but that’s not the case. But all along Ben thinks that Abilene is just the victim of an accidental overdose and her family is afraid to admit it.
This type might have worked on The Office where, Novak broke through the limelight. But as the lead in this movie, it’s hard to get through this way too long movie and it’s mediocre plot. There is an impressive performance by Ashton Kutcher as Quinten Sellers, a record producer who’s moved to Texas. Kutcher and Sellers seem to be in a different movie. Vengeance doesn’t know if it wants to be serious noir drama or an absurdist comedy. Abilene’s family is too one-dimensional it’s just a waste of time to list them here.
Another problem with this movie is you know there’s going to be a twist and if you’ve seen this type of movie, you know what the twist is or can probably guess it. You also know that Ben is going to have second thoughts about whether he should exploit the Shaws and the people around the community for a podcast or not. There was a totally different story hidden here that Novak may have done more brilliantly. Unfortunately, I can’t really recommend it.
What do you think? Please comment.