“Before you embark on a journey of revenge, dig two graves.” – Confucius
At the weekend we watched an old film, which we were unaware of until I found it in the “specials” bin of our DVD shop. It was Tony Scott’s 1990 film “Revenge” based on the novella by Jim Harrison and starring Kevin Costner, Anthony Quinn and Madeleine Stowe. This was a film showcasing Quinn’s veteran actor talent and providing a platform for Costner to show his developing acting skills.
Costner plays US Navy pilot Michael “Jay” Cochran who is retiring after 12 years in the service. He seems to have lost direction and wants to take some time out for himself. He plans to go and see his old friend and tennis partner Tiburon “Tibby” Mendez (Anthony Quinn) who is a powerful mob boss in Mexico. Tibby owes Jay a debt for saving his life at some point in the past. Once Jay arrives at the Mendez hacienda he meets Miryea (Madeleine Stowe) Tibby’s young and beautiful wife. Instantly attracted to one another and although initially fighting the chemistry between them, they begin an affair, which comes at a great cost.
There is a resemblance to “The Wild Bunch” (1969) and the location shooting in Mexico contributes greatly to the atmosphere and tenseness of the plot. The themes of love and forbidden love, versus friendship and loyalty are at the base of the plot, but there are also subplots relating to corruption, conjugal relationships, motherhood and pride. Tiburon Mendez feels he has been doubly betrayed, not only by his wife, but more importantly by his friend. Despite the fact that Cochran once saved his life, he shows no mercy for him or for his wife.
There are many tense and some extremely violent scenes, which are enhanced by the background, the sets and the score. The score especially is a great plus and the use of Mexican music in moderation adds so much to the action. The acting is nicely understated, Costner displaying a barely restrained anger throughout the second part of the film and Anthony Quinn playing a role that seems to have been written for him as the superficially charming but totally ruthless mobster. Madeleine Stowe is cast well as the female lead and the chemistry with Costner is good. The cinematography is excellent and the camera is used well to the advantage of the leads.
The ending of the film is one of its strengths and after Quinn and Costner “fight it out” so to speak, Costner’s scene with Stowe at the very end is both tragic and touching. There is a lot of emotion and deep feeling that manages to come out in what essentially is a very violent and grim, western-like movie. The rating for this movie in IMDB is 6.2/10, but I give it a 7.5/10. Certainly an underrated and under-appreciated movie.