"Revanche," Austria's 2009 nominee for the Best Foreign Language Film, is a structured, yet unpredictable psychological thriller. What starts out as a slightly off- putting investigation of human amorality, becomes a galvanizing psychological thriller worthy of repeat viewings. Writer/director Götz Spielmann reveals himself to the cinematic community and movie goers to be a fantastic storyteller, and a master of his craft.
"Revanche" is a slow, methodical film, much like its lead character Alex (Johannes Krisch), who decides to rob a bank with his girlfriend, Tamara (Irina Poapenko). Tamara wants out for the prostitution business and away from her pimp, Konecy (Hanno Poschl), and Alex is riddled in debt and works in Konecy's brothel as a bodyguard. He doesn't like seeing Koncey makes the moves on his women. Despite Alex's plan, the robbery goes wrong, and when speeding away from the scene, police officer Robert (Andreas Lust), shoots--aiming for the tires, but instead kills Tamara.
Tamara emerges as more intelligently connected to reality than her lover, the brothel tough guy, Alex. He is all sternness and hard talk - yet the surface hardness is just weak rebellion against his essential humanity. Later in the film, the police officer, Robert and his wife are introduced. Ursula Strauss, as the wife, gives a brilliant portrait of a woman whose practiced glibness is simply a smoke screen--disguising her dark impulses and emotions. The retaliations between these people develop subtly and indirectly, rather than any sort of bang-bang climax. Characters are intimately observed; their actions frequently say volumes more than their words. Eventually some characters come to know how everyone fits into this giant puzzle. The movie completely shifts gears when Robert and Alex meet. Only one of them knows the whole situation. Their meeting completely alters the course of the film.
Though his screenplay is sparse in dialogue, Spielmann directs his actors to rich performances. Explorations of loneliness and the nature of coincidence are camouflaged by a surprisingly cohesive narrative that features realistic and often unnerving character interactions. Much is asked of these actors, given that their characters are often unflattering, weak, and entirely human. These people find their lives intersecting without them knowing it. In "Revanche," which translates as "revenge" in English, the evolving situation becomes more morally complex.
"Revanche" means to move at a slower pace, allowing contemplation for the audience- -though it could have used a bit more "punch" at times to liven things up. Throughout the film, Spielmann remains in tight control of his story, creating moments of suspense, shifting dynamics on a dime, and presenting us with reversals of expectations, that seem, in retrospect, inevitable.