The other night I was browsing noir titles on Netflix and came across a Colin Farrell movie I’d never heard of called DEAD MAN DOWN. There wasn’t shit else on and I didn’t feel like paying to rent a movie so I watched it. To be honest, it wasn’t bad. I enjoyed it for the most part.
The movie tells the story of a man infiltrating a crime syndicate to get revenge for them having his family killed two years prior. Cool. This is the part where I mention how much I love revenge stories. I don’t know why, but for whatever reason revenge stories will always be near and dear to my heart.
Here is my only problem with DEAD MAN DOWN: (Spoiler alert, I’m about to tell you the ending so if you think you might one day watch this movie, stop reading now.) The whole movie is fairly dark and somber. A story about revenge, it damn well better be. BUT, at the very end of the movie, the main character walks into a house full of bad guys, with his guns and brass balls on full display. He kills every last one of them without getting so much as a scratch, saves the new love interest, and rides off with her into the sunset.
First, that is a WAY sunnier ending than I was hoping for. I’m not saying the main character always needs to die, but sometimes it just fits. Second, I absolutely hate that the formula for most payback flicks goes like this: Guy’s wife/family get killed, guy devises plan for retribution, guy meets lonely girl along his path to resolution, guy has hot sex with lonely girl, guy finishes killing bad guys, guy and lonely girl live somber ever after.
I hate that so hard. I think about these things, you know? I put myself in the character’s shoes. If I were this character, I wouldn’t stop until the bad guys paid. I wouldn’t sleep, I wouldn’t get drunk (can’t focus on the plan if you’re hammered), I wouldn’t have sex with some random girl until every last person was dead. Maybe I’m a psychopath for that, but I like to think it means I care.
This brings me back to my point about the main character not ALWAYS needing to bite the bullet, literally. And yeah, I mean literally as in literally, like, you know, it really happens. Whatever. Anyway, revenge stories are the perfect kind of story for our ‘hero’ to end up in a coffin.
Here’s an example: The Crow. One of my favorite movies of all time. My oldest son is named after the character. In the story, Eric Draven comes back from the dead to get revenge against the people who killed him and his girlfriend. He kills them, all of them. (Without finding love along the way) And you know what happens when he’s finished? He goes back to his grave. Fucking perfect. He got what he set out to do, his spirit was set free or what the hell ever you want to say.
These characters, who often start out as normal Joes, go on these rampages and kill. I think we can all imagine that killing humans probably takes a big chunk away from a person. Bad guys or not, if you go on a first degree murder spree you are probably going to lose a little bit of yourself. Or maybe a lot of yourself. Possibly even all of yourself, until you are nothing left but a husk filled with rage and violence. And I’m not even saying that is a bad thing.
At some point in most of the stories, a sagely older fella says something to the extent of, “You can still turn back,” or, “Do you think finishing this will bring them back?” or, “You are afraid there will be nothing left after you kill the last one of them”. It happens pretty much without fail in these stories. I guess we need this reminder that killing is bad, mmkay? But I think that character is right, what is left? Where are you supposed to go from there? Can you walk this path and go back to being a normal human again? I doubt it.
So balls up and let the ‘good guy’ die. He kills that last of the villains by setting off a bomb from within the building. He bursts into the gangster’s mansion gun a’blazin’ and takes a few bullets on his way to the top. Whatever.
That’s all of got. Feel free to leave a comment about your favorite revenge story (book, movie, whatever) or just to tell me why I’m dumb. Have a good one, everybody.