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Sunday, October 6, 2013

The Revengers' Comedies (aka Sweet Revenge) (1998)

After his wife leaves him and he's fired from his job, a man (Sam Neill) plans to commit suicide by jumping off a bridge. Once there, he meets a woman (Helena Bonham Carter) also planning on suicide by jumping off the bridge. She suggests a revenge exchange. She will destroy the man (Steve Coogan) who fired him and he will destroy the wife (Kristin Scott Thomas) of her lover (Martin Clunes). While she gleefully holds up her end of the bargain, he finds himself falling in love with his intended target. This black comedy based on the play by Alan Ayckbourn (who also did the screenplay) is a considerably compact version, the play ran five hours while the film clocks in at 90 minutes. Inspired by Hitchcock's STRANGERS ON A TRAIN, one can see the potential in the project but it's never fulfilled. It doesn't feel fresh and it's not outrageous enough, Ayckbourn and director Malcolm Mowbray needed to push the envelope but all they did was offer up an indifferent dish. Neill is a bit of a dullard (he doesn't have a comic's soul) but the wickedly impish Bonham Carter knows exactly what she's doing though it's a case of her being better than the material. With Rupert Graves, John Wood and Liz Smith stealing scenes as the ancient housekeeper.

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