Austrian crime film an anxious, psychologically fraught journey
Austrian writer/director Götz Spielmann's Revanche is a grippingly nasty plunge into contemporary noir. Ex-con Alex (Johannes Krisch) works for a Vienna hood, Konecny (Hanno Pöschl), who runs prostitutes and who knows what else. One of his employees is the Ukrainian Tamara (Irina Potapenko), Alex's girlfriend, although they have to keep their relationship secret from everybody at the brothel and hotel where the prostitutes live. When Konecny offers to put Tamara up in a nicer flat so that she can start servicing a better class of customer and she demurs, Konecny has one of his regular customers try to rough her up a bit to strong arm her into moving to the flat. That's when Alex decides to help Tamara escape from Konecny's hotel and make a play on a bank near the village where his grandfather lives. One good score is all he needs to take care of Tamara's debt and be able to buy into an Ibiza bar--their ticket out of Vienna.
Of course, when the movie is titled Revenge and opens with a shot of a lake's tranquil surface being disturbed as some object splashes into it and sinks, you know something isn't going to go as planned, and despite Alex's assurances to Tamara, the robbery goes horribly awry. And all that happens inside the first hour, after which a fairly conventional crime yarn becomes a taut psychological thriller. Spielmann has a knack for turning silence into tension and for amplifying it through what he decides not to show. Some of Revanche's most anxious and effecting moments take place when the camera stares at benign scenes: a hotel room when Alex breaks down just off screen; a long shot of a car coming to a stop in the woods; Alex walking through the woods at night accompanied only by a flashlight; Alex's grandfather playing jaunty accordion off screen, becoming an almost forgettable soundtrack to watching Alex quarter wood, when the music suddenly stops. About an hour and 40 minutes into this two-hour flick you start to see just where it's headed, but by then you've been slowly drawn into an uncomfortably precarious web. And by the time you know what was tossed into the lake in the opening scene you've realized that Revanche is less about an act of revenge itself then what drives people to consider it in the first pace.