- Boyd Holbrook, B.J. Novak, Issa Rae
- Written by
- B.J. Novak
- Directed by
- B.J. Novak
- Run Time
- 1h 34min
- Release Date
- July 29th, 2022
Despite it’s pretty generic title: Vengeance B.J. Novak’s feature-directing debut is far from that. Instead he delivers a funny and well-acted thriller and it’s safe to say when it is all over you will be 100% in. Novak who doesn’t just write and direct, he is what you call a triple threat as he also stars here and most importantly, he delivers on all three.
Ben Manalowitz (B.J. Novak) is definitely living someone’s best life as he is a writer in New York, he goes out night after night and meets his fair share of women. It is one of those women he met though that is about to give him his next idea. Ben, who has written for a few publications wants to focus on podcasts now, so that means he can never pass up a good story. So when Ty Shaw (Boyd Holbrook) calls referring to Ben as his dead sister’s boyfriend, a trip to Texas is 100% going to happen. Ben remembers the relationship much differently than this girl’s family, but he is intrigued by Ty’s assertion that his sister was murdered and it’s the perfect hook to entice his podcast editor Eloise ( Issa Rae). Ben believes people grasp onto conspiracy theories when they can’t face the truth, so when Ty tells him he thinks someone killed his sister, maybe even the Mexican drug cartel, he wants to get deeper in it. Once Ben starts to investigate, his podcast who his editor has dubbed “Dead White Girl” is coming together nicely, thanks largely to the girl’s family who are all a bunch of characters. As he learns the Texas culture, which includes a trip to a rodeo and Whataburger, Ben starts to enjoy his time in town especially as the story unfolds in unexpected ways.
Novak moves his mystery along with black comic beats but doesn’t skip on the drama that helps Ben realize that there is more to these people than he gave them credit for. As for Vengeance itself, it comes off both polished and engaging as Novak has had plenty of time in front of the camera to catch a few pointers. Having spoken Aaron Sorkin dialogue, and been the “little man” for Quentin Tarantino, Novak brings all that experience together and delivers something special. He not only shows what could have been stereotypical characters in a new light, but also shines a light on where we are in this country now.
When it comes to addiction you will be hard pressed to find a family that hasn’t been touched by it in some way. Novak presents one family’s struggle as they look for the truth at what happened with their loved one. With bleak subject matter, Novak and his cinematographer Lyn Moncrief deliver a beautiful film as it paints the Texas sky in darkness as well as pastels. Vengeance is a good ol’ Texas noir that looks at the human condition but still remembers to entertain. It is also serves as great satire on the podcast industry as a whole as it takes the hot button subject that is true crime and puts it through a focused lens for us to see. Vengeance is definitely self-aware and very refreshing as it shows that most things are not what they seem and that our opinions should always be evolving.