ACTS OF VENGEANCE
US, 2017, 87 minutes, Colour.
Antonio Banderas, Karl Urban, Paz Vega, Cristina Serafini, Lillian Blankenship, Clint Dyer, Isaac Florintine, Robert Forster.
Directed by Isaac Florintine.
There is no subtlety about this title. It is a film in the vein of vigilantes vengeance for crimes and avenged, especially reminiscent of Death Wish of the 1970s with Charles Bronson. The trend has continued in rather more upmarket action adventures with such stars as Liam Neeson and Denzel Washington, Taken, The Equaliser… Now it is the turn of Antonio Banderas.
What gives this screenplay some distinction as that a lot of the motivation for the action is drawn from the Meditations of the Roman Emperor, Marcus Aurelius, and his Stoic philosophy. The screenplay is divided into chapters with headings about evil, punishment, revenge, human dignity to introduce the chapters.
However, the film opens with chapter 4, Antonio Banderas as a slick lawyer who can get criminals off with technicalities, sitting in a diner, his voice-over explaining the situation, his seeming madness, and his pursuit through the restaurant and attack on one of the African- American cooks. At this stage, the screenplay goes to Chapter 1, later resume a chapter 4, not quite what we were thinking as the film opened.
Banderas is Frank, and over the busy lawyer who misses his daughter’s concert only to find that his wife and daughter have been murdered. He is given leave of absence, blames himself, isolates himself, wants to be punished, goes to clubs with secret no-Holt-barred battles, get himself bashed, but then trains in martial arts himself. He finds a book by Marcus Aurelius, spattered with blood, starts to read, makes a vow of silence and begins to try to solve the mystery of the murders, getting very little help from the police, played by Jonathan Shaikh. At his wife’s funeral, has been severely rebuked and cut off by her father who disapproves of him, played by Robert Forster.
There are many suspects, possibly Russian Mafia types. However, when he is bashed, his looked after by a nurse, played by Pat has Vega. She knows the area well, helps him on his search, discovers a witness (the African-American? chef) who has not only witnessed the murders and taken the wife’s purse because of his financial needs but identifies the killer as a policeman.
Audiences fish and is may be there from the beginning because Karl Urban has second billing, as discussed the killings with Frank, is also a fighter in the illegal bouts.
The to finally meet, the explanation for the killings is given – the abduction of the policeman’s daughter and her death leading to the criminal being released on a technicality through Frank’s work.
There is the temptation to violence – but, according to Marcus Aurelius, a man with a just cause should not be like his enemy and opponent.
1. Drama in the traditional Death Wish, Charles Bronson? 21st-century tradition of action films with Liam Neeson, Denzel Washington…?
2. The city settings, legal offices, homes, schools and concerts, apartments, hospitals, the seedy areas of the city? The musical score?
3. The background of the meditations of Marcus Aurelius, his Stoic philosophy? The quotations from his meditations, the chapters? Issues of violence, punishment, revenge and enmity, not being the same as the enemy?
4. The opening with Chapter IV? Franco and his voice-over, sitting in the cafe, his not speaking, the waitress, his reactions, going into the kitchen, threaten the cook, the bashing? The later resumption and a different interpretation?
5. Going back to the beginning? Franco and his explanations of himself? Successful lawyer, smug, his partners, getting criminals off because of technicalities? His love for his wife and daughter? Is in the office, the phone calls about her performance, his being delayed, caught in the traffic, missing the performance? The audience seeing his daughter singing, her mother taking the pictures, the absent father?
6. His being called, the news of their deaths? His grief, response, blaming himself? His coming across the book by Marcus Aurelius, reading, blood splattered, the quotations?
7. The encounter with Strode, his offer of sympathy, collaboration? His performance in the martial arts fights?
8. Frank, punishing himself, going to the club, getting in, confronting people, getting bashed, in the ring, the brutality? His later training himself in martial arts?
9. His investigations, interviews with the police, telling the officer to stop texting? His getting nowhere, no clues? His keeping the newspaper items?
10. The further chapters, his pursuit of the case, going to the area? The confrontation with the Russians and his suspicion of them? His being bashed and knifed?
11. His being rescued by Alma? Her work in the hospital? Is listening, his not talking? The information about the case? Her knowing the area well? The man who was a witness, tracking him down to the restaurant, the confrontation?
12. Shivers, his explanation, witnessing the killing, Frank finding the purse? Shivers explaining that it was a police attack? His finding the person taking the money because of his needs? The identification of Strode?
13. Frank contacting Strode? The rendezvous? The place where the killings took place? Strode and his motivations? His explanation about his daughter, the abduction, her death? Her abductor being guilty but getting off on a technicality, Frank’s technicality? Strode wanting revenge, depriving Frank of his wife and daughter, his callous comments about the wife’s resistance, the fear of the daughter?
14. The fight between the two? Frank being wounded? His remembering the words of Marcus Aurelius about not being the same as one’s opponent, letting Frank live, go to the court?
15. Alma, her consideration and support? Frank and his appreciation? The future?