Vendetta (1986)

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There have been plenty of rape/revenge movies since the 70s blew the topic open for discussion in the deeply disturbing Last House on the Left.  What’s come out of that sleazy sub-genre ranges from the amazing (Death Weekend) to the abysmal (I Spit on Your Grave) to the what-the-hell-were-they-thinking (Slashed Dreams)!  In the wake of such a wide variety, a few titles still remain undiscovered gems.  Vendetta is just such a film.

As Bonnie Cusack is raped in Joe-Bob’s truck, she shoots him square in the head, killing him.  A trial leaves her with an unreasonable guilty verdict, whereupon she enters one of the roughest female prisons this side of Corcoran.  Bonnie meets Kay, the most feared prisoner and the one with all of the connections outside and in. When Bonnie rejects Kay’s advances, she’s promptly thrown off the second floor of the block – and it’s her first day!  Bonnie’s sister, bad-ass stuntwoman Laurie Collins, decides to get herself thrown in the same prison (she steals the judge’s car and then runs it through a jewelry store!) and hunts down Kay’s gang one by one.

A roundabout type of rape/revenge film, Laurie’s quest goes far more than justifying her sister’s demise. Laurie is looking for answers where she’ll never find them. Random violence prevails and executing those you think are to blame might not be the only answer.  Laurie is left with a changed soul and more questions then ever. This film takes an odd Last House on the Left turn with Laurie’s epiphany, teaching that equating violence with violence does not equal inner peace.

 But back to Kay, actress Sandy Martin is by far the most realistic badass female prisoner I’ve ever laid my eyes on.  She’s a grotesque species in wife-beaters with a mouth like a sailor and the kind of humor only Ted Bundy would find amusing.  She’s a hedonistic bitch and she rocks!  Because not only is Vendetta an interesting allegory about revenge, it’s also a knock-down-drag-out action flick with real-life stunt woman Karen Chase putting foot to ass!  There’s plenty to eye here – heroin addicts, interracial relations (“Black and brown don’t mess around.”), cat fighting and a shower scene for good measure (keep your eye out for Bonnie’s body double!). In fact, what’s interesting about Vendetta is how it manages to keep hold of its feminist standpoints while delving into sleaze. And it’s got a female Prince impersonator!  What more could one ask for?

 

This review originally appeared on the blog Genre Girls.

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