For some while I'd been meaning to see Revanche aka Revenge, since the premise promised a decent neo-noir. When I finally did a few days ago, I wasn't disappointed.
In the story, Alex (Johannes Krisch) is an ex-con turned bouncer in a brothel that wants to make some quick money so that he can pay off his prostitute girlfriend's debts and elope with her. To this end he comes up with the idea of robbing the minimum-security bank in his father's village. But this being a story with darker thrusts, things are never as simple as that. In the course of making off in the getaway car, a stray gunshot from local policeman Robert (Andreas Lust) causes the death of his girlfriend. A shattered Alex abandons the vehicle in the woods and hides out in his father's house, passing his time between fervidly performing the farm chores for his ailing father and grieving in his room. To his chagrin, he then discovers that his father's nearest neighbors are Robert and his wife.
In the course of bringing us to this point, the script separately charts Alex's and Robert's individual threads, making us appreciate them as fully-fleshed characters before springing the conflict - Alex's troubled relation with his stubbornly independent father, and Robert's loving but childless household situation. In the aftermath of the killing we see both Alex's anguish at his girlfriend's death and Robert's guilt over having accidentally shot the girl. The further events in the film explore Alex's thirst for revenge on the man that killed his girlfriend and how it is resolved.
The film's austerity of mood bears a passing resemblance to Jean-Pierre Melville's crime dramas like Le Samourai or Le Circle Rouge. But those films were entirely male-dominated; here the woman characters are also important and there's an upfront sexuality to the extent of betraying an obvious commercial interest (after all, art-house crime films have better market value when they feature naked women and sex). Again and again we have scenes occurring at the village lake and it serves as more than a backdrop - the image of a placid surface over hidden dark depths serves as an apt metaphor for the inner turmoil of the characters in the story.
In a film like this performances are paramount, and the actors give us splendidly understated turns. Visuals and sound are captured in an exacting, atmospheric manner, and technically the film is first class. The main flaw is in that the script tries too hard to draw a neat "c'est la vie" circle and does not feel like an organic evolution of the character interplay. Even the stately (some would say sluggish) pace is unable to hide the strings of contrivance. But Revanche still remains interesting enough to recommend as a watch to people that like a solidly executed quiet crime drama.