October 19, 2021
by Carla Hay
Directed by Hadi Hajaig
Culture Representation: Taking place in London in 2019, the action film “Vengeance Is Mine” has a nearly all-white cast of characters (with a few people of Indian heritage) representing the working-class, middle-class and the criminal underground.
Culture Clash: An embittered middle-aged man goes after the men responsible for the hit-and-run deaths of his wife and 9-year-old daughter.
Culture Audience: “Vengeance Is Mine” will appeal primarily to people who are interested in formulaic and violent vigilante movies.
“Vengeance Is Mine” does absolutely nothing unique or creative in a story that has been recycled from the dozens of better vigilante movies that have come before it. A grieving husband/father, armed with weapons, is out for revenge. You know exactly what’s going to be in this movie as soon as you find out that this is the entire plot.
Written and directed by Hadi Hajaig, Vengeance Is Mine” not only skimps on originality, the movie also skimps on compelling conversations, since there isn’t much dialogue in this movie. “Vengeance Is Mine” is so by-the-numbers, you practically can do a countdown to the killings and when the movie’s big showdown will happen. It’s also easy to predict what will happen to the suicidal protagonist by the end of the movie. It’s the only conclusion that wouldn’t be controversial, considering all the murders he commits.
The protagonist of “Vengeance Is Mine” is down-on-his-luck Harry Kane (played by Con O’Neill), a widower in his late 40s who has been living by himself in a church’s back room in London. In exchange for free rent, Harry does maintenance work at the church. Not much is revealed about what Harry’s life was like before a traumatic tragedy changed his life forever.
It’s 2019 in this story. Five years earlier, Harry’s 43-year-old wife Elizabeth Kane (played by Annabel Wright) and their 9-year-old daughter Lucy (played by Lucy Pedrero) were killed in a hit-and-run car accident that Harry witnessed. The movie has several flashbacks to when Elizabeth and Lucy were alive, as well as to what happened in the reckless crime that took their lives.
There were several men in the car that killed Elizabeth and Lucy. Harry got a good look at all of them, but they have not been caught. He hired a private investigator named Henderson (played Ricky Grover), who has his own detective agency named after himself. The movie shows Harry glumly looking at some of the letters that Henderson has sent to Harry over the years. In the letters. Henderson says that there is nothing new to report.
Harry is so grief-stricken that an early scene in the movie shows him climbing on a high ledge at the church, with the intention to jump and commit suicide. He changes his mind and goes back to his depressing and lonely existence. Harry is essentially a bitter recluse.
Harry’s quest to find the hit-and-run criminals takes a sudden turn in August of 2019, when he gets a letter from the Henderson Detective Agency. The letter says that Henderson has information and asks Harry to meet him at a nearby cafe at a specific date and time. During this meeting, Henderson says that he heard through an informant that a man, who’s a regular at a local pub, has been bragging about causing the hit-and-run. The criminal braggart usually goes drinking at the pub on Thursdays.
Harry demands to know which pub, and Henderson reluctantly tells Harry. This detective seems to know what Harry wants to do and knows that nothing will stop Harry from doing it. Harry goes to the pub on the day that he knows he will probably see the suspect. And sure enough, Harry immediately recognizes one of the men at the pub as being one of the men who was in the car that killed Harry’s wife and daughter.
Harry notices that the man has a van parked nearby, so he quickly hides in the back of the van to find out where the man will be going after leaving the pub. (Conveniently, the back of the van was unlocked.) When the mystery man drives the van away, he goes to a run-down house in a somehwat remote area. And what do you know: Harry sees a few more men who were in the car that killed his wife and daughter.
It turns out that the men in the car are local criminals who are involved in drug dealing and robberies. The thugs, who are all in their 30s and 40s, are very generic with no backstories or discernible personalities. A few have names, such as Mark (played by Philip Bulcock), Karl (played by Perry Jaques) and Joe (played by Matt Bainbridge), while others don’t even have names. The film’s end credits list Villain 1 (played by Justin Pearson) and Villain 2 (played by Barry Green).
Harry goes home to fume and plan and his next move. Anyone who’s seen the most basic vigilante movies will know what happens next. And it does. “Vengeance Is Mine” tries to throw in some sentimentality in the story, by giving Harry a potential love interest. Her name is Emma (played by Sarah-Jane Potts), who oversees the church’s soup kitchen and is Harry’s supervisor. Emma is a kind-hearted widow who is also grieving over her dead spouse.
The possible romance between Harry and Emma is just a way to make it look like Harry hasn’t lost his sensitive and emotional side. But make no mistake: Any possible “love story” in this movie is just filler. “Vengeance Is Mine” is all about cold-blooded revenge. The movie puts the most effort in the bloody fight scenes, not in character development.
The problem is that these characters, the action, the story and everything else about this movie are bland and derivative. The acting is mediocre. The direction is clumsy, with hokey music for the slow-motion scenes showing Harry’s awful flashbacks to witnessing the hit-and-run that killed his wife and daughter. Because so much of “Vengeance Is Mine” is predictable junk, viewers won’t find much to care about in this movie. It’s hard to care about a movie that’s so uninspired and forgettable.
Vertical Entertainment released “Vengeance Is Mine” in select U.S. cinemas, on digital and VOD on October 8, 2021.