Revanche 

Slow Burn: Be patient with Spielmann's Revanche.

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You’d be forgiven if you spent the first half-hour of Gotz Spielmann’s insinuating drama Revanche wondering what the emotional payoff could possibly be. It seems like it’s just gonna be one of those pokey, angst-y Euro-character studies that critics get all lathered up about yet leave audiences chilly.

Be patient with Revanche, though, and you may be very glad you did. The set-up finds a Ukrainian prostitute in Vienna named Tamara (Irina Potapenko) weighing an offer from her boss (Hanno Poschl) to service his wealthier—and sometimes more demanding—clients, much to the dismay of Tamara’s boyfriend, Alex (Johannes Krisch). A recently released ex-con, Alex thinks he can pay off Tamara’s debt and take care of her himself by robbing a rural bank. “Nothing can go wrong,” he reassures her.

Naturally, something does go wrong—and it’s the exact nature of what goes wrong that sets in motion the film’s gripping second half. Alex finds himself hiding out at the farm of his widowed grandfather and entangled in the lives of a policeman (Andreas Lust) and his wife (Ursula Strauss), whose marriage is already strained by their inability to conceive a child. It’s drama of the most basic, yet riveting kind: Who are these people to one another, and will the tensions between them eventually explode?

While the one early plot twist is a bit of a stunner, Spielmann hasn’t made a movie that depends on knockout moments. Instead, Revanche works as a gradual accumulation of performance moments and character insights. Krisch, in particular, is phenomenal as Alex, who becomes a fascinating personification of the kind of guy who turns the blame for his poor decision-making on the world. Yet, he’s also a complex intersection between the hard case he sees himself as and the tangle of emotions that inspires Tamara’s boss to describe him as “too soft.” Watching Alex cut firewood could feel slow and repetitive—or it could be the act of watching a man decide which side of his own soul will win out.

REVANCHE

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Johannes Krisch, Ursula Strauss, Andreas Lust
Not Rated

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