Tender and suspenseful study in love

Posted: November 06, 2009

A 2009 foreign-language Oscar nominee, the Austrian thriller Revanche ("revenge") is a slow-burning, character-rich study in desperation, grief, vengeance, loyalty, and love. It's the sort of arthouse entry - in German, mostly - that gets you thinking about an English-language remake. But really, why should there be one? Hollywood has a sorry history of messing these things up, and writer/director Götz Spielmann's movie - beautifully shot, beautifully acted - is just about perfect as is.

Johannes Krisch stars as Alex, an ex-con who works in a Vienna brothel. He runs errands for the boss, does his work, keeps quiet. Very quiet: Unbeknownst to anyone, he and Tamara (Irina Potapenko), a pretty Ukrainian prostitute, are lovers. The early scenes of them together are not only erotic, they're remarkably tender; Krisch and Potapenko project an intimacy, and urgency, that is utterly genuine.

Alex and Tamara are desperate to leave the brothel behind, but both are seriously in debt. He hatches a "foolproof" plan to rob a bank. And, of course, the plan goes terribly wrong.

It would be close to criminal to reveal more, other than to say that the pair cross paths with a small-town police officer. The obsessively athletic cop (Andreas Lust) and his supermarket-owner wife (Ursula Strauss) have a different, unhappier sort of relationship - one that changes dramatically in the wake of the robbery.

Revanche explores psychological terrain, revealing how people relate to one another, and to their God, if they believe in one. There's real biblical tragedy, and redemption, in Spielmann's fine, sad, suspenseful film.


Contact movie critic Steven Rea at 215-854-5629 or srea@phillynews.com.

Read his blog, "On Movies Online," at http://www.philly.com/

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