Act of Vengeance (1974)

Genres - Action, Crime  |   Sub-Genres - Martial Arts  |   Run Time - 90 min.  |   Countries - United States  |   MPAA Rating - R
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Review by Donald Guarisco

This odd, often disturbing exploitation film tries to have it both ways with its disturbing subject matter and the results are a rather confused piece of work. The screenplay sends out mixed messages: it condemns the act of rape and sides with its victims but also presents those acts in an over-the-top, lurid style that exploits every seedy detail. It doesn't help that both male and female characters are presented as one-note caricatures (the women are angry, the men are either vicious or lunk-headed) and the plotting requires the protagonists to do dumb things to endanger themselves, especially during the finale. The exploitative touch of Act Of Vengeance extends to the direction of Bob Kelljan, who undercuts the film's stabs at pro-women messages by frequently showing his heroines in various states of undress. He handles the film's suspense elements well and paces the film with skill but tends to get shallow performances from his cast. For instance, Jo Ann Kelly overdoes her character's rage, resulting in an annoyingly shrill performance at times, and the other female characters tend to blend into one angry, clich├ęd blur (in fairness, the thin writing plays a role here). As a result, Peter Brown walks away with the film thanks to his barnstorming turn as the film's egotistical, self-obsessed rapist villain. Ultimately, Act Of Vengeance is a deeply flawed relic from the exploitation era that is too lurid and uneven for anyone but serious cult film fanatics.