After watching Measure of Revenge, you’ll understand why the film bears no writer credit.
The Bella Thorne paycheck train chugs along with Measure of Revenge, a low-budget tale of maternal vengeance that unfortunately sidelines the eminently watchable Thorne for most of its runtime. Instead, audiences are treated to the sight of 61-year-old Oscar winner Melissa Leo doing her best Liam Neeson impression as a world-famous theater actress named Lillian Cooper who sets her sights on taking down the men responsible for the death of her son, Curtis (Jake Weary), a popular musician and recovering drug addict. Unfortunately, director Peyfa, making her feature film debut, opts for a solemnity that smothers any potential fun, resulting in a final product that plays a little like Death Wish by way of Ingmar Bergman — but, well, not good.
Lillian becomes convinced that a narcotic known as PMA — “Like ecstasy, but more toxic” — was forcibly administered to her son and his fiancée, killing them in the process. She teams up with Curtis’s former drug dealer, a successful photographer by the name of Tas (Thorne), to eliminate not only the men who run the city’s PMA drug-trafficking circuit, but also those individuals at her son’s record label who are profiting off his demise. But Lillian is one of those actresses who is more than a little full of herself, and she is soon aided in her murder spree by the numerous stage characters she has played over the years, including Ophelia from Hamlet and Hester Prynne from The Scarlet Letter. You see, Leo embodies each of these roles, often appearing in what basically amounts to a hologram but is better described as laughable CGI. But unfortunately, that this woman is so self-obsessed does nothing to deliver any meta moments of levity; instead, audience members are invited to sit in awe at this incredible thespian, who is truly giving that performance of a lifetime. Such a description sadly does not extend to Leo herself, who has always opted for showy melodrama as a habit, and here is allowed to give in to her worst instincts and tendencies. It is a truly awful performance, one so howlingly nuts that the film threatens to teeter into satire at any given moment.
Of course, that would imply there is some fun to be had here, of which there is none. It’s quite obvious that something happened to this film in post-production, as events are rushed through to such a dizzying degree that there are times where all logic is simply obliterated, a fade-to-black or dissolve desperately trying to disguise the teeth marks from the chainsaw used to edit this thing. Measure of Revenge also has no writing credit beyond a few story consultants, which, if it accomplishes nothing else, is a true first for this writer. (How embarrassed do you need to be to take your name off a film starring an Oscar winner and getting a theatrical release?) Thorne gives the most subdued performance of the film and is certainly its strongest element, but her character is also involved in a last-minute plot twist that cruelly insults the intelligence of every viewer who has managed to stick it out to the end. Director Peyfa shows technical know-how but brings little in the way of style to the proceedings, unfortunately continuing the tradition of mononymous filmmakers being uniformly terrible (Kaos, Pitof, McG). The real revenge here is the one Peyfa and [redacted writer] inflicts upon viewers, though it’s unclear what anyone could have done to deserve this.
Published as part of Before We Vanish — March 2022.