Vengeance Parent Guide
This movie isn't as shallow as it sounds. To the contrary, it gives its characters some depth and injects nuance in the script.
Parent Movie Review
Ben Manalowitz (B.J. Novak) is living the dream in NYC. He’s a journalist with the New Yorker, he’s got a steady hookup calendar, he’s verified on Twitter, and he’s got a great apartment. Somehow, he’s still not satisfied and wants to angle his career into a podcast, a longer format where he can explore more complex and abstract issues. So when he gets a call in the middle of the night from a bereaved Ty (Boyd Holbrook) telling him that his sister, Abilene (Lio Tipton), a girl Ben hooked up with a few times, has died of an overdose, Ben’s first thought is to find excuses for missing the funeral. But Abilene told her family that Ben was a serious boyfriend, and he can’t find a way out without directly confronting her family about their daughter’s misdirection.
Reluctantly, Ben flies down to a small town out in West Texas for the funeral, only to learn that Ty wants him to do much more than speak at the funeral. Ty believes his sister was murdered; that her overdose was no accident, and wants Ben to help him avenge her death – once he figures out who’s responsible, that is. In this bizarre turn of events, Ben sees an opportunity to strike podcast gold: An ongoing investigation about a mysterious death, including interviews with the immediate family and community. With the family’s permission to record, Ben sets out to make his career and, hopefully, get to the bottom of Abilene’s death.
The movie isn’t quite as shallow as it sounds. I went in expecting another “Yankee in the South” movie, where the arrogant Northern city boy turns up in some bleak Southern speck on a map, laughs at the locals’ zany antics, and learns a valuable lesson about family, community, and America. Not to say that’s not what’s going on, but the movie is also prodding its characters into revealing their insights on the opioid crisis, commercialization, political division, and personal values. What’s even more surprising is that some of these insights are fairly interesting.
More surprising still is that Vengeance manages to be funny from time to time, instead of the relentless smugness I was expecting. It’s still not a family film, but that’s mostly due to profanity. While the characters are dealing with mature themes like sexual relationships and drug use, those things aren’t shown on screen or discussed in any kind of graphic detail, and what violence there is on screen is brief and avoids gruesome detail.
Vengeance makes for an interesting little mystery, strewn throughout with meditations on the human condition generally, or the American condition specifically. For a first effort, Novak’s writing and directing are remarkably watchable – even if the story does rely on some tropes to get where it’s going.Directed by B.J. Novak. Starring B.J. Novak, Isabella Amara, Ashton Kutcher, and Dove Cameron.. Running time: 107 minutes. Theatrical release July 29, 2022. Updated July 30, 2022
Rating & Content Info
Why is Vengeance rated R? Vengeance is rated R by the MPAA for language and brief violence
Violence: A character is injured in an explosion. A man is punched in the abdomen. A character is shot in the neck and head.
Sexual Content: There are references to hook-ups and sex, none of which are graphic or detailed.
Profanity: There are 28 sexual expletives, six scatological cruses, and some mild curses and terms of deity. There are also developmental slurs.
Alcohol / Drug Use: People are seen drinking socially. There are references to drug overdoses and pallets of oxycontin are seen. A girl is briefly seen on what is presumably oxycontin, but is not shown taking any drugs.
Page last updated July 30, 2022
Vengeance Parents' Guide
What does the film have to say about the opioid crisis, hookup culture, political divisions, and the role of the internet in modern life? How does Ben try to address these large and complex topics?
The film mentions Gary Webb. Who was Gary Webb? What were his investigations about? What is suspicious about the circumstances of his death?
Related home video titles:
Similar mystery films include Wind River, Searching, Mississippi Burning, and The Dry. Films about the drug addiction include Crisis, Four Good Days, Trainspotting, and Cherry. If you’re looking for more investigative journalism, try Spotlight, State of Play, The Post, Citizen Kane, Shock and Awe, Official Secrets, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, and Minamata.