[Much like last time, spoilers for these films will ensue. And if for some reason you missed the beginning, be sure to check out Part 1 to get caught up!]
The Last House on the Left (1972)
To be honest, I like the 2009 version of the film slightly more than the original but the original film’s acts of vengeance and the reasons for it are more compelling. Two friends Mari (Sandra Cassell) and Paige (Lucy Grantham) go to a concert to celebrate Mari’s 17th birthday. In search of some marijuana, they run into a vicious criminal (David Hess) and his gang who just escaped from prison. Brutally victimizing and raping both girls, Paige is murdered for attempting to escape. Mari is then shot in the back and left for dead in a nearby lake. Unknowingly, as the gang looks for a place to hide out for the night, they end up staying at Mari’s parents (Cynthia Carr and Gaylord St. James) house. Mari’s mom quickly realizes what is going on and the couple goes out in search of their daughter. They find her and bring her home and decide to make the criminal pay for what they did to their daughter. One by one, they go after each of the gang members and dole out their own brand of parental justice.
Law Abiding Citizen
In the middle of a home invasion robbery, Clyde Sheldon (Gerard Butler) is forced to watch as his wife and daughter are brutally raped at murdered by the two criminals Clarence (Christian Stolte) and Rupert (Josh Stewart). During the course of the trial, he is informed by the prosecuting attorney Nick Rice (Jamie Foxx) that the case is weak at best and that they will be settling the case in a plea agreement with the lesser of the two criminals, Rupert, being sent to death and the more violent one, Clarence, only serving three years. Ten years later, as Rupert is about to be executed by lethal injection, his execution goes horribly wrong, the machine having been tampered with. Clyde then goes after Clarence and video tapes the entire ordeal and murder. But Clyde isn’t done yet. He begins to go after those in the system that he feels failed his dead wife and daughter and begins killing members of the DA’s office and even a judge. Nick Rice must then find a way to stop Clyde before he kills even more including his family.
Leone “Leon” Montana (Jean Reno) is an Italian cleaner (hit man) for the local mob living a solitary life in New York City. One day he meets young Mathilda (Natalie Portman); sporting a black eye and smoking a cigarette in the hallway of their apartment complex. Mathilda’s father works for a corrupt DEA agent named Stansfield (Gary Oldman), who has her entire family killed when he discovers that her father has been stealing some of his drugs. Looking for sanctuary from Leon, she eventually discovers his secret life and begs him to teach her to be a cleaner so she may avenge the death of her four year old brother. In exchange, she will work as a maid and help him get over his illiteracy. Over time, she confesses her love for him, but he says nothing in return. One day, Mathilda sets out to kill Stansfield in the DEA building but he ambushes her and reveals that Leon has killed one of his men. This sets into motion a violent confrontation between Leon and Stansfield, along with several of his DEA agents. Leon helps Mathilda escape and enacts her revenge on Stanfield himself.
Munich is unique in this list as it is the only film that is actually based on real life events – the tragic murder of the Israeli Olympic team by the terrorist group Black September during the 1972 Summer Games held in Munich, Germany. Squads of assassins, put together by Israeli Mossad agent Avner Kaufman (Eric Bana), are charged with tracking down and assassinating every member of Black September that they know of during the mission known as Operation Wrath of God. Traveling to Italy, Cyprus, Lebanon, Greece, Spain and the US, they track down members and uncover other operational hazards that may impede their mission. What is interesting about this film is that it depicts the emotional toll the act of seeking revenge can take on a person as Avner is left questioning whether they made the right decisions or made a difference at all.
This psychological thriller is actually a double revenge film as the viewer sees the damages that the “eye for an eye” mentality can have on people. Oh Dae-su (Choi Min-sik) is kidnapped and imprisoned on the night of his daughter’s 7th birthday. Held for fifteen years without any knowledge of why, he is kept alive by only eating fried dumplings and occupying his mind by shadowboxing to keep in shape. Then one day he is released with no reason. Finding help by the lovely Mi-do (Kang Hye-jeong), they grow emotionally attached and sleep together as Dae-su pieces together why he was imprisoned. He learns that Lee Woo-jin (Yu Ji-tae) is responsible and had his personal vengeful reasons for doing what he did to Dae-su telling him that if he does not discover the reasons for himself, Woo-jin will kill Mi-do. As Dae-su uncovers the reason as to why Woo-jin had imprisoned him, he goes to confront him at his penthouse. While there, Woo-jin delivers a secret so horrifying, Dae-su pleads for Woo-jin not to tell Mi-do. Woo-jin agrees and later kills himself over secrets from the past. Disturbing, unrelenting and unnerving to no limit, Old Boy certainly delivers one hell of a twist showing why revenge may not always be the best way to rectify situations.
Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan
While on a mission to find a suitable planet for Starfleet science officers to test the new Genesis Device on, the USS Reliant happens across Ceti Alpha V, believing it to be Ceti Alpha VI, and also houses the remains of the SS Botany Bay – the craft in which the 20th century despot, Khan Noonien Singh (Ricardo Montalban), was marooned by Captain James Kirk (William Shatner) 15 years earlier. Blaming Kirk for leaving Khan and his eugenically enhanced people to die, Khan hijacks the Reliant, learns of the Genesis device, and seeks it out to use as revenge on Kirk. A deadly game of cat and mouse is played by the two men with the lives of thousands in the balance. In the end, Khan quest for vengeance proves his undoing as he activates the Genesis Device in a suicidal attempt to kill Kirk and everyone aboard a crippled USS Enterprise. Sacrificing himself by reasoning that “the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few… or the one,” Spock (Leonard Nimoy) reactivates the warp core saving everyone on the Enterprise.
Timid American professor David Sumner (Dustin Hoffman) moves with his wife Amy (Susan George) away from the restless of college anti-protest in America to her hometown in Wakely, Cornwall, England. Several Wakely locals, including Amy’s ex-boyfriend Charlie (Del Henney) begin to harass David and criticize his intellectual points of view. They soon kill the Sumner’s cat to prove a point, but rather than confront the men who did it, David tries to befriend them. On the ruse of taking David on a hunting trip, the men abandon him in the woods and return to his home where Charlie and Norman (Ken Hutchison) brutally rape her. When David returns home, Amy does not tell him what happened. Later, on the way home from a social where Amy began to get distraught at seeing her attackers, they accidentally hit a young man, Henry (David Warner), with their car, not knowing that the villagers are looking for him for assaulting a young woman. Alerted to Henry’s location, a mob surrounds the Sumner home and when the local constable is accidentally killed, David realizes he must defend him wife and home from those outside which leads to a violent and drawn out confrontation with the villagers – including Amy’s attackers. (Note: A remake of this film is due out in mid September.)
When a local prostitute is maimed and disfigured by two men belonging to a local gang of cowboys, the rest of the prostitutes come up with a bounty of $1,000 to anyone who will kill the two men responsible when it becomes clear that the sheriff, Bill Daggett (Gene Hackman) will do nothing about it. A young man calling himself the Schofield Kid (Jaimz Woolvett) enlist the help of a reluctant former gun for hire, William Munny (Clint Eastwood) and his partner Ned Logan (Morgan Freeman). Munny, Logan and the Kid arrive in town but are soon met by Daggett and his men who severely beat Munny near death. After being nursed back to health, the three set out and attempt to kill the two they have been contracted for. It becomes evident that Logan no longer has the desire to kill and Munny kills the first man who dies a slow painful death in front of his friends. Logan leaves but is soon captured by Daggett and his men. After killing the second man, the Kid also says that killing is not in his blood – unlike Munny who has been rumored to kill women and children as well. After learning that Logan was captured and beaten to death by Daggett and his men, Munny sets out to avenge his friend. Finding Daggett in a bar, he quickly kills five men and wounds Daggett. He delivers the coup de grace on Daggett and warns the townsfolk to properly bury Ned and not to harm the prostitutes otherwise he will return and kill every man, woman and child.
Ex-CIA officer Bryan Mills (Liam Neeson) is trying to build a new life for himself and to grow closer to his teenage daughter Kim (Maggie Grace). During lunch with Kim and his ex-wife Lenore (Famke Janssen), the two convince Bryan to let Kim travel to Paris with her friend Amanda (Katie Cassidy). Knowing the situation in Europe, Bryan is abstinent at first but relents. He is further unnerved when he finds out that Kim will not just be in Paris, but traveling through Europe following the band U2. As he feared, Kim and Amanda are kidnapped in Paris while he listens in over Kim’s cell phone. Taking matters into his own hands, Bryan travels to Paris and single-handedly begins hunting down those responsible for Kim’s kidnapping. He learns that the two girls are being held by the Albanian Mafia and are probably going to be sold as sex slaves in Paris’ underworld. Fighting his way into the headquarters of the sex slave trade, he continues his pursuit, viciously murdering and torturing everyone he can to divulge information on his daughters whereabouts. After witnessing Kim being sold as a slave, Bryan then tracks her down to a yacht and confronts the man and his henchmen about Kim, killing them all and reuniting with his daughter.
In parting, let me just leave you with these thoughts. In a just world, revenge has no place. The willful act of violence against another ultimately leads to more violence. For the characters in most of these films, there are no consequences for their actions of malice and violence. But I believe that is what makes them so appealing to the audience. Whereas most of them viewing the film would never willingly commit such heinous acts, they live out these primitive fantasies through what they see on screen. Knowing that they themselves have social and psychological responsibilities, they empathize with the characters on screen as they can only imagine what it would be like to do such things, barbaric things that may have crossed their minds once and again as they look at the world around them.
-Tell me none of you ever felt anger when you hear of a child molester killing a young child and the thought of seeing that person tortured for their crimes hasn’t crossed your mind. In the real world, we do not act on it as we see ourselves as a just and civilized society. But in the fantasy world of film, we can vicariously live out those thoughts through the actions on screen. And that is why I believe that these films remain so interesting and popular with movie goers.