There are only two guns in "Revanche," and one of them, at least for much of the time, isn't even loaded. Yet the movie, a riveting, Oscar-nominated thriller whose French title can mean both revenge and reconciliation, just about always feels like it's cocked and ready to explode.
Set in Vienna and the surrounding countryside, Goetz Spielmann's drama tells the story of two couples: Ex-con Alex (Johannes Krisch) and his prostitute girlfriend, Tamara (Irina Potapenko); and rural policeman Robert (Andreas Lust) and his wife, Susanne (Ursula Strauss). Their paths collide and become inextricably entwined, when Alex, who's looking for a way to rescue Tamara from the thuggish brothel owner she works for (Hanno Poeschl), decides to hold up a small-town bank. The cop stumbles upon the hooker waiting in the getaway car. The thief shows up, loot in hand. A shot is fired. And tragedy, as they say, ensues.
Nothing, from this point on, is conventional, including the look of the film, which plays like a series of meticulously framed still photographs. Each one is freighted: wrenching anguish one minute and the almost unbearable threat of violence the next, as the three remaining players in the drama grapple with one another and their own consciences.
Spielmann doesn't move his camera much, but he doesn't have to. The uniformly crackerjack cast keeps things electric, yet always believable, even when behaving in ways that are shocking.
You don't put a bullet in a gun and expect not to use it. Every image in Spielmann's film -- especially the shots of something being thrown into a pond that, for all intents and purposes, open and close the film -- is like an itchy finger on a trigger. We watch them on the edge our seats, waiting for the ultimate pull or release.
-- Michael O'Sullivan (May 29, 2009)
Contains nudity, sex, sex talk and crude language, drug use and violence. In German with subtitles.