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Movie Review: Vengeance

If you follow me or read this blog, you should see this movie. It’s quick and funny, but if you’re here with me, you’re the kind of thinker who will get even more out of the film than a fun night out.

When the trailer for Vengeance floated onto my screen, I knew within seconds that I would have to watch it. And I made plans to see it properly–in a theater, with popcorn, and in the company of others willing to talk about the movie over drinks after. What did I hear in the trailer that made me so sure?

Rae: What evidence does he have that it was a murder?

Novak: Nothing. And that’s the story.

It’s one of the questions–or maybe it’s a piece of one of the questions–central to my research of crime and the media. Are we seeing conspiracies where there are none? Do we inflate the mystery of basic stories for our own entertainment?

I’ve listed a few reviews at the end of this post that provide a great summary of the film and what they believe Novak was attempting to capture, but here are the two themes that stood out to me as a crime and media researcher.

Everybody Loves a Good Story

As a teacher, blogger, ghostwriter, and textbook author, I’ve heard and said over and over again, “If you want a reader to engage with you and understand your point, you need to give them a story.” It’s a philosophy I apply when I teach, it’s a technique I use for myself when I analyze data, and it’s something that has become more and more important to me as I study crime. Numbers on a page are real people with families and friends. Whether they were hurt, killed, or have gone missing, their story is what will drive change, even it it’s the research that points to the solution. As I work on my own book, I appreciated that reminder.

We Connect to the Record People Leave Behind

Kutcher’s character delivers an impassioned speech about how people connect to people’s stories, and he refers to them as the record they’ve left behind. It’s a beautiful speech that is delivered well, and I’m guessing everyone who hears it will react in some way. What it made me realize was just how close I feel to the victims in the cases I know well. When I think about the Jodi Huisentruit case, I don’t think about the crime scene or boxes of evidence. I think about her news broadcasts, the video of her birthday party, and who she was as a person–even though I never met her. As I’ve heard more and more updates recently about testing the DNA in the JonBenét Ramsey case, I don’t imagine the wonders of the lab. I see the bright-eyed six-year-old girl who died too young.

Vengeance Official Trailer
Short description (which doesn’t do the film justice): A journalist and podcaster travels from New York City to Texas to investigate the death of a woman whom he hooked up with.

When I watched Vengeance, I was reminded that most crime junkies are like me. We become attached to the victims. We feel sadness for them and their families. We feel a desire for justice that is fueled by their emotional stories.

I highly recommend the movie for anyone familiar with the true crime space. It’s a funny and well-written tale that, especially to those of us who are drawn to true crime, gives you plenty to think about.

Resources for Citizen Investigators & Internet Sleuths

With a movie review, what resources can I provide other than other reviews? As most of us do when deciding whether to invest two hours of our life in watching someone else’s story, I do encourage you to consider what others thought of the film. Hearing what someone who doesn’t identify as a crime junkie has to say may provide valuable insight. And besides, don’t we always strive to acquire multiple viewpoints–even for something as seemingly routine as choosing a movie? Here are a few thoughtful perspectives I found.

Did you see Vengeance? Did you love it? Hate it? Have a different takeaway than I did? Drop your thoughts in the comments!

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