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Vengeance: A Love Story

A small town, a terrible crime, a moody cop: it’s all been done before

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With a low-budget crime film starring Nicolas Cage, there’s at least a chance that the actor delivers one of his unhinged or otherwise inscrutable performances, thus shifting the hackneyed material to a different level of entertainment. Alas, Johnny Martin’s crime potboiler, set in Niagara Falls, doesn’t offer that. (The film was adapted from Joyce Carol Oates’ 2003 novel Rape: A Love Story.) Cage plays a police detective of some renown, though he mostly seems poorly groomed and moody, the kind of guy who ignores a vibrant young woman at the bar. But on the Fourth of July, he comes across a terrible crime scene — that same woman from the bar, who has been brutally raped by four men, all while her 12-year-old daughter is forced to watch. This horrific case goes before a small-town judge who instantly tosses it out. Despite the woman still displaying facial injuries. Despite a cop at the scene who quips, “DNA, fingerprints … they left everything except their wallets.” And despite an eyewitness. (Look, I’m not saying that plenty of worthy cases don’t get tossed for various outrageous reasons, but this particular story makes no sense at all.)

You can write the rest yourself, as Cage’s character decides to mete out justice himself, though this also makes very little sense. The justice system in this particular version of Niagara Falls is so inept, it fails to note even the sudden disappearances of four — four — defendants in one high-profile case. Vengeance doesn’t deliver even the fun of a nutty Cage performance, so viewers are stuck with a predictable plot, terrible dialogue and flat acting. I will note only that two other washed-up ’80s stars turn up in slightly livelier roles: Don Johnson plays a slimy defense attorney, and Dallas’ Charlene Tilton is the blowsy mom to a couple of the rapists. 

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