Starring Johannes Krisch. In German and Russian with English subtitles. Unrated. Plays Friday to Monday, July 24 to 27, and Wednesday and Thursday, July 29 and 30, at the Pacific Cinémathí¨que
This oddly compelling Austrian item isn’t really about revenge, as the French-rooted title suggests; it’s about guilt, with a hint of renewal, as revanche can also mean a second chance.
Watch the trailer for Revanche.
The main chancer in Gí¶tz Spielmann’s superb character study is Alex (theatre veteran Johannes Krisch, in his first major screen role), a grizzled club bouncer with few noticeable skills, social or otherwise. It turns out he does have dreams beyond the Viennese underworld he occupies, however, and Alex impulsively runs out of town with his sort-of girlfriend (Irina Potapenko), an aloof Ukrainian beauty who speaks almost no German and is sick of turning tricks with repulsive mobsters.
Alex drives her to his grandfather’s house near a secluded lake and then proceeds to lose the nest egg he stashed nearby, thus leading to one of the most poorly planned bank heists in movie history. Someone gets shot, and the shooter is a sensitive local cop (Andreas Lust) who becomes the target of Alex’s violent fantasies. Staking out the younger man’s house, he encounters the cop’s stranded wife (wonderful Ursula Strauss), and their response to each other is, shall we say, complicated.
The film’s cool tone is reminiscent of Jerichow, another Teutonic thriller that played here recently, although Spielmann (who also wrote and directed Antares and The Stranger) dives further into the film-noir conventions to find his characters’ existential rootlessness. At two hours, Revanche probably plays out its classical themes too evenly, and the ending may feel too predetermined to some viewers. Personally, I found it to be one of the most satisfyingly complete human dramas of the past few years.