Vengeance movie review & film summary (2022)

Ben doesn’t have a girlfriend named Abby. He’s a player who hooks up with many women. But a quick check of his phone confirms that he did indeed have sex with an aspiring singer named Abby (Lio Tipton) a few times and then forgot about her. Somehow he ends up letting himself be talked into traveling to Abby’s hometown, attending her funeral, and commiserating with her grieving family, which also includes her younger sisters Paris (Isabella Amara) and Kansas City (Dove Cameron), her kid brother El Stupido (Elli Abrams Beckel), and her mother Sharon (J. Smith-Cameron). Then Ty tells Ben that Abby was murdered, probably by a Mexican drug dealer named Sancholo (Zach Villa), and asks if he’ll help the family seek, well, you know.

Ben is a narcissist who seems to view every relationship and experience as a way of raising his status as a writer and quasi-celebrity, so it seems unbelievable at first that he’d travel to Texas to attend the funeral of a woman he didn’t really know. But the notion begins to seem more plausible once he starts talking to the family and slotting them into his prefabricated East Coast media-industrial-complex notions of “red state” and “blue state” people, and spinning his theories about temporal dislocation. Modern technology, he says, allows every person to exist in every moment except the present if they so choose. The desire for vengeance, we are told, is exclusively a backward-looking urge.

Intrigued by the possibility of writing the equivalent of a great American novel in the form of a podcast (he even name-checks Truman Capote’s In Cold Blood) Ben decides to stick around to gather material for an audio series, which will be created under the supervision of his friend Eloise, a New York-based podcast editor for a National Public Radio-like organization. (As Eloise, Issa Rae works wonders with a thinly written role.)

If Ben’s creative vision sounds like the kind of navel-gazing blather that you’d hear on a true crime podcast in which an actual person’s murder becomes a springboard for brunchy rumination on law and truth and the nature of yadda yadda by a group of Ivy League college graduates based in Brooklyn, well, Ben is aware that he’s sliding towards that cliché—and so is Eloise, who early on makes a joke to the effect that Ben is the only white man in America without a podcast. And yet, true to media form, they embrace the templates, tropes, and clichés anyway. 

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