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Niagara Falls police detective and Iraq war veteran John Dromoor (Nicolas Cage, The Rock) is flagged down by a 12 year old girl after she witnesses her mother, Teena, being brutally attacked and left for dead by a group of local men.
When the men are caught, their parents hire slick criminal defence attorney Jay Kirkpatrick, (Don Johnson, Django Unchained) who puts the focus on Teena’s credibility, based on her sobriety and promiscuity. Shockingly her assailants are exonerated and released, even though the daughter’s testimony should have alone been enough for a certain conviction.
In the aftermath of the verdict Dromoor grows increasingly close to the victim and her family, who he then discovers are being taunted and stalked by the freed men. The injustice becomes too much for him to take and, fuelled by a sense of vengeance and his own personal demons, Dromoor sets out on a lone campaign to dole out the justice the men deserve.
How provocatively can a woman behave before she’s asking to be sexually assaulted? How far, before any battering she receives becomes her fault, and not that of her attackers? The answer is of course that there is NO distance a woman can go before she deserves to be raped, but these are the questions being put to the good folk of Niagara Falls, NY, in this, the new film by director Johnny Martin (Delirium). Based on the 2003 novella Rape: A Love Story by Joyce Carol Oates, Vengeance: A Love Story plays in many ways like an eighties/nineties TV thriller. This feeling is no doubt augmented by the star turns of both Don Johnson in strutting peacock mode as cocksure defender Jay Kirkpatrick and of a (thankfully) largely restrained Nicolas Cage as John Dromoor, the detective determined to dispense justice when the law will not. The real stars here however are Anna Hutchison (The Cabin in the Woods) as Teena, the victim of the attack, and Talitha Bateman (The 5th Wave) as Bethie, the girl who witnessed the entire assault on her mother. I expected to find myself referring to Miss Bateman as a newcomer but this is her fifteenth picture and, given her ability on display here, I really shouldn’t have been surprised.
In addition to the rape itself which is brutal but mercifully brief, Vengeance: A Love Story is often a hard watch, from the various scenes of young Bethie being harried in her small town by the friends and relatives of the rapists, to the court scenes in which Teena is pulled to pieces all over again in an entirely different but hardly less inhuman manner. Things unfortunately degenerate into more typical Nicolas Cage territory later on but, this being a straight-to-video affair, that was always on the cards.
Vengeance: A Love Story never drags, Nicolas Cage maintains a laconic restraint for the most part, and the movie – due out on March 27th, 2017 – is certainly worth at least a look.