It’s grindhouse a-go-go again, as another low budget actioner attempts to shock and entertain with its need for sleaze and violent retribution. Vengeance Road (or American Muscle as it’s also know: and a much more fitting title!) sees its anti-hero, John Falcon (Principe) being released from a ten year stretch with only one thing on his mind: (what else) revenge. Along with having a cool action hero name, John Falcon is one big son of a bitch and a relentless, tattooed, behemoth that will stop at nothing to find his estranged wife and those who set him up. So Falcon sets off across the desert in his souped-up bright yellow muscle car with a pump-action shotgun and gets down to business. But does his wife want to be found? Can he let go of the past? And will everyone at some point get their head blown off in a ridiculously over-the-top fashion? Well, the answer to the last question is definitely a yes because as Falcon’s mantra goes: you owe, you pay and boy do people pay in Vengeance Road.
Now we’ve seen this type of story a bazillion times before both in the grindhouse genre and the straight up action genre, and Vengeance Road doesn’t do much different with it. There’s a dude who wants payback and he goes about getting it, with ample amounts of gunplay, sex and bloodletting. Despite some stylistic flourishes the flick rarely breaks new ground but to be fair does what it does pretty well. The acting tends to vary from the decent to the amateur but everything is so slickly shot and the narrative never strays far from the next bout of violent action or sex and nudity meaning the 75 minute runtime moves at a fair lick. Sure there are way too many needless flashbacks showing Falcon’s former squeeze being sexy/edgy/cool so we know that he’s never forgotten her and, you know, is always in his head and the filmmakers do rely a bit too much on slow motion for dramatic/edgy/whatever effect but when Vengeance Road gets going and delivers the violent reprisal its entertaining stuff. There is a fair bit of action which, as mentioned, mainly involves people getting their heads blown off and while the finale is a bit of a letdown (mainly due to all that excessive slow motion and needless flashbacks) there is a great shootout in what appears to be some sort of desert iron sculpture display (!) and a couple of meaty fist fights.
Nick Principe cuts a fine revenge-gunning figure and Todd Farmer (screenwriter of Jason X and Drive Angry) may not be the most scary bad guy but certainly makes for a slimy dounche-bag who deserves the really quite shocking comeuppance he gets: the film may rarely shock as it would like to but the ending will probably stick in your mind for some time after! While we may be reaching faux grindhouse fatigue (and the flick really should have amped up its action elements a tad more rather the sleaze to make it more effective), Vengeance Road is still some retribution-fuelled fun buoyed by some fantastic desert locations, slick camerawork and the magnificence of that sun-yellow muscle car.
Vengeance Road is out now on DVD from Metrodome Distribution. No extras included.
Review by Andrew Skeates