Welcome to the latest edition of 24 Frames. Andrew Jamieson will be guiding you through the exciting, confusing and often brilliant world of 'film'. Expect news, trailers and plenty of opinion.


The 'Revenge' Edition

November sees the release of the new Ridley Scott movie, The Counsellor (2013). The movie is being described as a departure from Scott's previous work in that the focus of the movie is one that is primarily based around dialogue and character, rather than the stunning visuals that are normally attributed to Ridley Scott. I have qualms with these claims as Ridley Scott is clearly a director who understands the relationship between actor and director, and his visual prowess often means that this ability is understated.

What struck me about the promotional material for Scott's new movie, and the rumours I have heard about the picture, was the fact that this movie seems to have deeply lurid and darker thematic concerns than Ridley Scott's previous work. It is well known that Ridley Scott's brother Tony died during the making of the movie. Tony Scott was renowned for his action work from Top Gun (1986), to the last movie he directed, Unstoppable (2010). However there is a movie he shot four years after Top Gun that in context unifies Ridley's new movie with his the work of his brother, this movie was the Kevin Costner helmed Revenge (1990).

After making two blockbuster Hollywood pictures with Top Gun and Beverley Hills Cop 2 (1987), the younger Scott wanted to return to the dark orifices of the pulp fiction he had brought to the fore with his underrated vampire shocker The Hunger (1983). To do this he chose to direct a movie starring Kevin Costner whose career would hit a high that same year with Dances with Wolves. The previous year Costner had also set families aflutter in 1989 with Field of Dreams (1989), his next movie represented a departure from this friendly type of film with a far edgier role. Alongside Costner Scott brought in the beautiful Madeleine Stowe, her star was on the rise and Stowe's career would be defined two years later by Michael Mann's stunningly romantic and action packed epic The Last of The Mohicans (1992). Finally, Scott hired the old Hollywood star Anthony Quinn as the final piece of his casting jigsaw.

Revenge is the story of how a former pilot called Cochran reunites with an old gangster friend in Mexico and begins a passionate affair with his friend's wife: Miryea, played by Stowe. Costner's friend discovers their affair and wreaks terrifying revenge on the couple.

  • Kevin Costner and Madeleine Stowe in Revenge

When the movie was originally shot, Tony Scott envisioned a dark, erotic and violent movie that explored the volcanic consequences of sexual desire, violence and retribution which was present in Jim Harrison's original novel. They were met with significant opposition from the studio who had a different take on the material, and significantly a production team who wanted the movie to serve as a romantic drama with much of the sexuality and the brutal violence removed. The studio version of the movie was released to negative reviews at the time after having many scenes added or removed.

In 2007 Scott revisited the movie on Blu Ray with an unrated director's cut. It is this cut that is worthy of consideration. In a movie which the director describes as being about "the insatiable desire to fuck," Scott pushes the eroticism and animalistic desire at the movie's heart to the fore. Madeleine Stowe brings all of her Castilian heritage and mesmerising beauty to the fore, and yet despite the more lurid claims of its director the movie never feels exploitative of its female lead. The passion and chemistry between Costner and Stowe in the narrative is actually similar to the component parts of what would be supposed norms in the romantic sensibility of mainstream cinematic portrayals of love.

Here the pleasure and hope of sensual lustful desire and love is brought to the fore, no more so is this more apparent in Scott's presentation of Stowe, before her character and hope itself is destroyed by vengeance and hatred. The movie opens with a telling homage to Top Gun which is interspersed with horrific imagery that foreshadows the terrifying events about to unfurl. Anthony Quinn portrays malice and friendship so well in his portrayal that it is truly a testament to his acting ability. Ironically Quentin Tarantino has said that this movie is one of his favourites. It bears all of the traits of a violently subversive picture. The movie is also similar to a Tarantino picture in that many archetypal supporting characters show up and leave their mark on the viewer, a tactic that Tarantino himself would replicate in a more showy fashion with his own work in later years. The sun soaked Mexican landscapes are beautifully shot and Scott displays the visual tropes that would define his movies for the next decade or so.

Revenge is not a cathartic tale on first viewing but it is almost better viewed as a kind of sexually explicit revenge poem, to coin my own phrase! The ending of the movie is a symbolic representation about the consequence of attraction and the irrefutable power of natural human desire, sensuality and ultimately love. These facets of the story can be lost amidst the violence and sex portrayed here but as a lustful and horrifying fable, the movie succeeds.

As Ridley Scott brings Cormac McCarthy's screenplay to the screen with The Counsellor, I'll remember that it is dedicated to his brother and his memory. I will take a moment of emotional pause and give kudos to Tony Scott who made a nasty, morally ambiguous thriller first and it was vengefully wonderful.