One Tough Cop Takes Out the Failing System’s Trash! “Vengeance: A Love Story” review!


Fourth of July. A holiday that celebrates the birth of the United States of America becomes the physical and psychological dismantling of a widowed mother named Teena who is viciously attacked while taking a woodsy shortcut home with her young daughter, Bethie. Beaten nearly to the end of her life and dragged to a vacant boathouse, Teena is gang raped by each of her four assailants and while Bethie managed to free herself from her attackers, the child is helpless as she witnesses her mother’s near-death assault. Bethie’s testimony and positive ID of the rapist is a seemingly slam dunk win for prosecutors that will hopeful open a slither of recovering hope for Teena, but when the accused parents hire an expensively sharp attorney that spins and attacks Teena’s character that night, the case quivers on the edge that leans more toward a non-guilty verdict. Detective John Dromoor, who found Teena unresponsive after the assault, had previously met with Teen and was familiar as a humble, energetic, and friendly acquaintance, but now seeing the single mother struggling to cope not only from her rape, but through a justice system that’s feasibly flawed, the Desert Storm, Purple Heart veteran embarks onto a covert, vigilante path to rid the world of justice elusive scum.

“Vengeance: A Love Story,” inspired by the novel with an edgier, yet more shocking title, “Rape: A Love Story,” written by Joyce Carol Oates, provides the foundational narrative for the Nicholas Cage produced and Johnny Martin directed 2017 dramatic thriller that’s quintessentially an alternate model of rape-revenge of inherent brutality and toxic judicial bureaucracy challenged by moral renegades defending the decency with lethal force. Penned by John Mankiewicz as his only non-TV related project, “Vengeance: A Love Story” is not like “Live Free or Die Hard” or an “Independence Day” in the sense that’s not a 4th of July type film, granted those two aforementioned films are plump with large scale action and though Johnny Martin is a stunt man turned director, his third feature film, set in upstate New York near the Niagara Falls, doesn’t regale tales from his previous trade that includes stunt work in “Zombieland” to “Se7en” and many, many more.

The introduction of detective John Dromoor staked out in his undercover squad car with a partner whose planning to pop the question to his girlfriend with a diamond ring. As his partner proudly displays the marital finger token, Dromoor is all business; in fact, Dromoor is all business, all the time. Reserved like Catholic deacon and deadly with firearms, Dromoor doesn’t have time to crack a smile and shows little emotion even when being a proxy of vigilante justice for an friendly acquaintance. “Mandy” star Nicholas Cage doesn’t rightly fit this role. The charismatic and eccentric actor runs through John Dromoor sedated with horse tranquilizer symptoms of stultified sluggishness, but when the moment strikes, like a rattlesnake latching on in a blank of an eye, the killer charisma of rugged resilience comes to the forefront, a quality Cage portrays well, and with vengeance in the title, should have reared up and lasted more often to let the very fervid fiber of the word sink in. When Dromoor meets Teena for the first time in the bar, prior to attack, romance seemed to beguile them between Dromoors lack of personality and Teena’s giddy, if not superfluous flirty radiance as she provides him her call me digits, but there was no romance, or at least no more romance provided, afterwards. Straying not so far from her cheerleader pepped character in “The Cabin in the Woods,” Anna Hutchison douses herself in a familiar upbeat tempo that quickly burns out when her character becomes the victim of gang rape scene. The wake of that scene challenges Hutchison to be more than just a pretty face, but an emotionally and physically battered woman suffering from traumatic stress and slut shaming. Hutchison’s goes through the various stages of trauma and the powerful relevancy has more staying power than the whole Dromoor vengeance byproduct, sending Nicholas Cage’s retribution into more of a subplot gray area. The remaining cast includes Talitha Eliana Batemen (“Annabelle: Creation”), Deborah Kara Unger (“Silent Hill”), Joshua Mikel (“Last Shift”), Rocco Nugent (“Dracula: The Impaler”), Joe Ochterbeck, Carter Burch, and “Miami Vice’s” very own Don Johnson as the hot shot prick lawyer, Jay Kirkpatrick.

Having coursed through the film’s various themes of rape, shaming, and the malfunctioning legal system, one more important theme inherently stands out with real pertinent clout issues. While two suspects, who are brothers, are arrested by Dromoor and his public servant colleagues, their venomous mother pursues hellfire guidance from a priest of the Catholic faith and as the father offers his spiritual insights, which is harmlessly conventional within the priest’s parameters, he also provides contact information for an expensive lawyer who represents the ill repute. Layers upon layers of thick symbolize can be extracted from the brief allegory, like an onion being unraveled toward a rotten core, unveiling the lengths and means of religious impurities. The fact that this priest knows of and has contact information for a powerful defensive attorney really speaks to Joyce Carol Oates’ deep-seated opinions rolled up in a single brilliant scene, but that’s where the momentum unfortunately ceases. There’s a schlepped through court hearing that’s entertaining enough and Dromoor’s barbaric rogue undertaking of the law that dishes out cold-hearted kills, but aspiration to convey more substance loses steam, the editing is systematically chunky, and Dromoor has this weird dynamic with Teena and her daughter that feels unintentionally stalker-ish and predatory. Yes, Dromoor protects and serves with unauthorized capital punishment, but without providing a deeper context of his purpose to what really motivates him to do what he’s doing, the act of retribution impressions another pressed upon imposition toward a mother and daughter’s prolonged anguish and feels more gross than justified.

FilmRise and MVDVisual distributes “Vengeance: A Love Story” on a full HD, 1080p Blu-ray presented in a widescreen, 1.85:1 aspect ratio, and the digitally shot video remains untarnished by nature or, lack of, age. No compression issues with the image quality and colors are super vibrant with a wide range of hues to take absorb. Skin tones, night scenes, and even the minimal visual effects address pinpoint consistency throughout. The English DTS-HD 5.1 surround audio track favors a strong, upfront dialogue track leveled with score and ambiance. The surround sound quality, when suitable, explodes through the channels with evidently solid range and depth. Runtime is 100 minutes and there are no other bonus features other than the film’s trailer, which has been consistent with FilmRise distributed releases. Nicholas Cage’s usual droll is riding the pine in “Vengeance: A Love Story” as if the Academy Award Winner wasn’t being paid enough to speak or act madly so he mentally sat this vendetta thriller out; however, the story has meaningful aspirations and the violence, though fleeting, is spiteful and merciless, framed around with tactless pacing, gratuitous macho shots, and circumstantial, at best, motivational retribution.

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Evil’s One Kaboom Step Away! “Landmine Goes Click” review!

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Three backpacking American tourists and good friends Daniel, Alicia, and Chris tour through the Georgian countryside, looking for that one last hurrah before Daniel and Alicia tie the knot. When the trip seems to be going well, Chris steps on an old landmine, leaving him grounded and motionless to the spot. The next series of events will determine their fate as an psychopathic local and his Rottweiler happen upon the frightened and helpless Americans. Caught in a maniac’s twisted game, their only chance for survival is to play by the local’s Machiavellian rules or otherwise take their own life-risking chances by stepping off the a shrapnel-exploding, flesh-piercing, life-ending mine.
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“Landmine Goes Click” bares no one identity. The Georgian thriller from director Levan Bakhia cleverly abridges four genres together, resulting in one intensely merciless story of unfortunate and deadly circumstance intently set to destroy one’s emotions. Bakhia teams up again with writer Lloyd Wagner, both who’ve previously worked on heated horror chiller “247°F,” and are joined by Adrian Colussi to substantiate a story that’s dices through a range of plot subdivisions from thrilling and exploitive to revengeful and tragic.
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Kote Tolordava, the late Georgian actor who tragically died of a heart attack shortly after filming, defines the look and the manner of a sleazeball psychopath. A straggly comb over laid upon unkempt shoulder length hair with a stubbly five o’clock shadow that rests beneath a bushy Georgian bred mustache combined with an over extended gut stretching a bulbous silhouette in a white under shirt that’s covered with a breast opened, military-like navy colored coat sizes up Tolordava’s Iiya character as a harmless human joke, but pair that look with a loaded Remington, a muscle-laden Rottweiler, and a taste for taking advantage of the situation and you have a maniacal genius ready to reap the benefits of your misfortune. Tolordava’s wears Ilya’s clammy skin as if it’s his own, playing the local kook with a sadistic hard-on.
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But Sterling Knight, as Chris, carried the film to a jarring conclusion, especially in the last acts. My initial reception of Chris was a big question, why does Chris, whose unable to move from the landmine, severely antagonize a creature like Ilya? Once the characters progress to a level of no return, to a level of depravity and maliciousness, understanding Chris was no longer an enigma and how Chris follows up with Ilya begs, absolutely begs, for retribution. Knight’s day and night performance tells tales of his acting talent. Don’t let the youthful face, the deep blue-eyes, or the Justin Beiber vocals fool you, Sterling Knight demonizes handsomeness.
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With Tolordava and Knight, Spencer Locke, K-Mart from “Resident Evil: Extinction” and “Resident Evil: Afterlife,” had the toughest role to be burdened with as Alicia being an object of affection for not one, not two, but three characters and, in two of characters’ cases, in a malevolent way. Locke’s scenes were the most difficult to gape at, but her character ends up being the driving force behind almost everything that happens, even to divulged information prior to the beginning of this film to which we are not privy. Alicia is essentially the epicenter that crumbles the foundations of lives around Daniel, Chris, and even Ilya and like an epicenter, Alicia becomes the butterfly effect that ripples devastation from a single event. Like I said, a role that bares a heavy burden.
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Bakhia utilizes effects that can be easily overlooked. His use of miniatures of the Georgian countryside, compositing them with the live action motor vehicles, is a stunning visual, alluring to our minuscule selves in the world. Also, the director, I noticed, does many long takes by swerving the camera from side-to-side that may consist of a stationary position or even tailing to characters, obtaining individual reactions and letting the scene play out without as much as a single edit for a lengthy period of filming. My first experience with Bakhia at the helm isn’t spoiled with gaudy gore or an outlandish unrealistic script; “Landmine Goes Click” thoughtfully provokes our inner animal and is constructed and edited similar to the style of Oscar winner Martin Scorsese. No film goes without flaws as I thought some of the fade to black editing was oddly placed and the overlapping during genre transition didn’t settle with the mood at the time. However, I’m not a big fan of exposition, but I thought there was enough exposition to get us through on how Chris managed to step on a landmine and also to what really happened to Alicia. Any more footage would have been overkill, making the 110 minute runtime that much smoother.
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“Landmine Goes Click” rightfully found a home as an Icon Home Entertainment Frightfest Presents. Spurred with volatile tension and a dynamically charged cast, “Landmine Goes Click” is the tip of the Levan Bakhia ice berg and watch out for more films from Sterling Knight, an actor that can steal a scene, or in this case, a movie right from under another talented actor Kote Tolordava. Since the disc sent to me was a screener, I am unable to review the audio and video qualities, but I can say that there wasn’t much bonus material aside from an introduction of the film by Frightfest’s Alan Jones and Paul McEvoy and the other Frightfest film trailers. Like a good concealed explosive device, “Landmine Goes Click” exploitatively shreds through your soul, cleaving barbed shrapnel to linger and rot in the confined spaces of psyche.

A Squad Against Evil Rapists! “Act of Vengeance” review!

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A deranged serial rapist wearing a hockey mask viciously attacks Linda, a university student who operates a food truck during the day and works on a horse farm in the evening, and forces her to sing Jingle Bells while in the middle of his heinous act. When the police could do nothing about locating and incarcerating her rapist due to lack of evidence, Linda’s urge for revenge boils to an explosively volcanic overflow. She learns that four other young university women have been attacked by the same Jingle Bells rapist and so she devises a plan to form a rape squad to encourage other women to reach out to their squad to stop various types of misogynistic attackers in hopes that one case might lead to their own attacker, but little does the revenge seeking victims know that they’re rapist has formed his own plan: to rape all five at the same time!
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“Act of Vengeance,” also better known by as “Rape Squad,” sleazes the screen as an American rape-revenge exploitation film helmed by “Count Yorga, Vampire” director Robert Kelljchian in 1974. An exploitation film that just doesn’t only exhibit the gratuitous violence and nudity and perversion, but manages to go deeper, analyzing the difficult moments of how women were perceived and treated post rape in a time where laws against rapist and laws to protect the women victims are, at best, intangible. Kelljchian’s assembly line of degradation painfully puts Linda (Jo Ann Harris) through a series of incompetence and chauvinistic values, forcing an awkward and uncomfortable blanket of emotions over, not only Linda, but ourselves. Ross Elliott’s officer portrayal as Sgt. Long was nothing short of frustration for Long and Linda; his questioning was insensitive, yet routine while her vague description of her attacker doesn’t qualify for swift justice. Also, when Linda has her legs up on the gurney brackets, the male doctor goes through a creepy-comforting spiel to try and get Linda to relax before tasking a smear and that has Linda, in a way, relive her trauma and just layers on uneasy tone.
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For the first half the film, Kelljchian seamlessly and continuously pushes the male snickering and apathetic obliviousness toward Linda’s, and the groups’, rape. At about or around the time the squad forms and a martial arts expert named Tiny, played by Lada Edmund Jr., starts to karate kick potential abusers’ asses, “Act of Vengeance” drops the dramatics and goes full blown Jackie Brown-revenge, losing some depth to the subject matter and getting back to the route of an exploitation film with bits of intentional comedy tossed in for good measure. “Acts of Vengeance” isn’t vengeful torture porn similar to a preceding film, a little known title you might recall entitled “The Last House on the Left” directed by master of horror Wes Craven, or in later films that have been more popular with audiences over the years; one particular film stands out having a striking familiarity in title and somewhat in story is 2015’s “Bound to Vengeance,” starring “Kindergarten Cop’s” Richard Tyson, where a young girl escapes the confines of a sexual predator, joins forces with a couple of other captive victims, and turns the tables on his perverted, underground organization.
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What really makes “Act of Vengeance” also surprisingly good is Peter Brown’s performance as Jack the rapist. The Southern drawl with plain-spoken manner is unlike any other character I’ve ever experienced. When Jack asks of Linda, under his firm grip around her throat, to say, “Say, thank you, Mr. Rapist,” a calculated chill shivers down every inch of the spine. Now being that “Act of Vengeance” was released in 1974, Jack’s assault sporting getup and candid personality might spark a reminiscent flame for horror fans. Jack’s thin stature fits slightly loose in an orange jumpsuit and he covers his face with a white goalie mask that strap wraps around his wavy dark hair. To this reviewer, the jumpsuit resembles a pumpkin-shade version of Michael Myers jumpsuit, while the white goalie mask is without a doubt an inspiration for Friday the 13th Part III and it’s sequels. Jack even stalks the women like the two homicidal big fellas, lurking behind trees and bushes while catching up with ease to his fleeing prey without breaking a jogging sweat. Jack’s personality, that disgustingly witty rapist charm, feels too familiar to yet another staple villain, the boogeyman of children’s’ nightmares, Freddy Krueger. Essentially, Jack could have easily influenced three of the most popular and well known iconic horror villainous characters of all time.
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Linda perfectly suits as Jack’s antagonist. The abuser and the abused compliment each other with a their cat-and-mouse game full of deceits and atrocities, but the crowning moment, the scene that defines the fate the characters, crumbles under the pressure of the story’s full embodied substance. Linda and the Rape Squad are baited too easily, walking into a vacant zoo that’s Jack’s trap and the group’s aware of this but still continues forward blindly. Characters ultimately start to unravel when one of the Squad’s women breaks from the pack, on purpose because she’s too frightened, and walks back to the car alone. Certain common sense would suggest to stay with the four other women to avoid being a lone target of your murdering rapist. Jack also becomes easily baited by Linda who mocks his masculinity, drawing him out from his perfectly laid snare and into a one-on-one bout with a baton bearing woman looking for retribution.
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Deservingly so, MGM’s and Kelljchian’s “Act of Vengeance” receives a stellar home video release in Australia from EX Films, filled with extras including a 30 minute interview with Jennifer Lee-Pryor (as Nancy in the film), an audio commentary by author Alexandra Heller-Ncholas of “Rape-Revenge: A Case Study” and film critic Zak Hepburn, and theatrical and home video trailers. Pristinely presented in a widescreen 16:9 aspect ratio that’s vividly colorful, nearly blemish free, and with all the bells and whistles of restoration perfection. The Dolby Digital 2.0 mix is clean, clear, and balanced, giving Jack the rapist that much clarity in his threats. EX Films provides solid packaging of a clear case with reversible cover art and a 48-page insert booklet featuring all the press material sent and received about the film – a marvel to read. The Ex Films region 4 release tops and trumps the competition, standing clearly the winner when compared to it’s DVD-R rival from MGM in the U.S. No other film is more violating than this hard to swallow, rape-revenge exploitation gem “Act of Vengeance!”
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Stopping Evil Takes Relentless Determination. “Bound to Vengeance” review!

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Twenty-one year old Eve has been chained to a basement structure of a desolate house in the desert.  She turns the tables on Phil, her sexual predator, by clocking him hard with a stone brick and escaping his hellish domain, until she realizes, through Phil’s pictorial archive, that he has more girls in similar captivity.  Driven by guilt over her sister’s own demise at the hands of their captor, Eve sets forth a nonstop mission to release girls no matter the cost even if that means bringing her injured rapist along for the ride.  As they stop from location to location, not all the victims are as calm and collected as Eve and her predator isn’t the only dangerous one in this particular sex trafficking ring.

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“Bound to Vengeance,” also known under the working title “Reversal,” would naturally seem from first glance reading the title as a rape-revenge exploitation film by José Manuel Cravioto, except the story begins in the basement with Eve’s escape.  Cravioto’s film fast forwards past the pre-show character story development, the terrifying abduction, and the uncomfortable rape scenes or sequences.  Instead, the story bee lines straight toward the revenge act, raising Eve out of the ashes like a worn torn Phoenix and obtaining the upper hand on Phil.  From there, only sporadic interjections of her prior abduction are revealed through video tape footage of her and her boyfriend.  Even without displaying all the horrible things that have happened to Eve, a successfully conveyed cognizance of her strife goes without saying, or in this case, showcasing because the Rock Shaink Jr. and the late Keith Kjornes, whom I remember from his first penned wacky work in “Repligator,” cover Phil’s monstrous and unquenchable sexual rampage through the scared and scarred eyes of all the victims Eve intends on liberating and from Phil’s spew of lies from his own snake forked tongue.

vlcsnap-2016-01-21-19h57m41s50Dark Factory Entertainment, for a company as a whole, is as small as a guppy when compared to bigger, badder fish in the ocean; however, “Bound to Vengeance” is like a piranha, a flyspeck river fish with a vicious bite.  I’m also impressed to see “Kindergarten Cop” star Richard Tyson presenting a delightfully decadent performance in his character Phil, whose a mid-40’s man living a double life, living the American dream with a beautiful wife, innocent young child, and living in a grand house while a darker, hidden side revels in an oversight role in the world of sex slavery.  Phil represents the very definition of a very real evil inside our society and Tyson, through that slightly raspy and baritone voice of his, brings out the character’s warranted ugliness.  Tyson opposites Stephanie Charles, saddling into the empowering female role Eve, and Charles meets the veteran Tyson eye-for-eye on all their scenes together, never once sensing a performance recession.

vlcsnap-2016-01-21-19h41m18s205The rape-revenge flick, minus the rape, concentrates, just outside the surface, around the sex slavery ring.  In fact, the insightful story is quite educational and informative, sectoring separate pieces of the sex trafficking ring from a simple abduction, restraint, and rape to a criminal empire consisting of various locations and various hands in this particular ring.  Victims also go through stages of stockholm syndrome, such as with one of the girls Eve attempts to free, but she’s too far gone under the influence of Phil and his forceful philandering friends.  And for a film that’s about sex trafficking, sex has nearly been omitted from the entirety with only some disheveled and scanty covered women, some with BDS&M outfits.  Criavioto’s suspense thriller breaks the narrative barriers without being, story suggestively, sexually explicit and gratuitous.

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The High Fliers distributed DVD and Dark Factory Entertainment production is a win-win for both companies where dynamic actors and sexually charged subject matter thoroughly straps you forcibly in the passenger seat and causes a five-finger death grip on the oh-shit handle bar.  Prepare to have your eye balls glued to screen and your jaw drop when each scene becomes more intense than the other, from girl-to-girl, to house-to-house.  Gravitate to this release as soon as possible as I swear disappointment will be far, far away from any reaction bestowed upon this Cravioto film.