Friday, August 12, 2022

Vengeance - 3 1/2 stars - Opens August 5, 2022

Ok, maybe you need to grow up in Texas to love Vengeance, but I did, and I do.  B.J. Novak plays an East Coast podcaster enjoying the single life.  One night he receives a mysterious phone call informing him his "girlfriend" has died in West Texas.  Novak can't remember her, but the caller insists he attend the funeral.  So, a blue state podcaster lands in red state Texas setting up a "fish out of water" adventure.  (I think we are supposed to assume this takes place in Alpine or Marfa although it was shot in New Mexico.)  The family of the dead girl takes him into their home and pleads with him to investigates her death.  They refuse to believe it as a drug overdose and claim the death resulted from a foul deed or even premeditated murder.  Novak, in full media mode, elects to turn his investigation into a true crime podcast.  The trail leads him to a very compelling Ashton Kutcher, who plays a record producer in the middle of nowhere.  Kutcher's moments delight, as he spins his philosophy of performing creative work in a desolate environment.  He also gives the story a nice twist.  Vengeance is full of inside jokes and local references including a long riff on the Texas fast food favorite Whataburger.  The movie feels like one of the great Woody Allen comedies of the 1970's with a touch of the remake of Raymond Candler's The Long Goodbye.  B.J. Novak is a delight as an average guy surrounded by eccentrics.  Vengeance made me laugh out loud more times than I expected.  I watched in a theater with five other viewers, one of whom was a friend who came with me.  If you miss it, catch it on demand.  Vengeance is just the kind of independent creative fun the movies need.