Vendeta, the feature film debut of director Miroslav Ondruš, is a refreshingly old-fashioned revenge thriller that features the kind of no-nonsense filmmaking you just don’t see any more. It’s cold, swift, and brutal; devoid of twists or turns or pretensions of becoming something greater, it works due to its dogged simplicity.
Director Ondruš previously worked on last year’s Czech Lion-award winning Pouta as assistant director to Radim Špaček. Vendeta scored Czech Lion nominations for Actor (Vetchý), Supporting Actor (Kaiser), Cinematography (Martin Štrba), and Music (Petr Ostrouchov); it went home empty-handed, but this isn’t the type of film that tends to win awards.
Vendeta opens with a teenage girl (Lucie Šteflová) and her classmate (Ondřej Havel) travelling to an abandoned quarry. The classmate has promised her a modeling gig for his fashion photographer uncle; two of his friends wait close by, debating whether they should “go through with it”. Clearly, something terrible is about to happen.
Flash-forward to the girl’s father (Ondřej Vetchý, Dark Blue World), distraught and disenchanted with the justice system; the police plan to release the three boys, claiming a prison sentence wouldn’t do anyone any good.
The father has only one thing on his mind: revenge.
And he attempts to get it, with the help of a large sum of cash and two corrupt police officers – played by Igor Chmela (Rodina je základ státu) and Marek Taclík (Grandhotel) – who are transporting the boys. Another man (Oldřich Kaiser, I Served the King of England), simply in the wrong place at the wrong time, gets caught up in the action.
Vendeta has been sold as “Vetchý vs. Kaiser”, pitting two heavyweights of the Czech acting scene against each other; the reality of the film is slightly different, though no more complicated: revenge.
It’s the kind of tough, intense – but disarmingly straightforward – revenge picture devoid of Hollywood pretension, the kind that France churned out in the 70s and 80s.
That’s a good thing, because films like this aren’t made often enough these days, and Vendeta represents the kind of genre filmmaking that is all but absent from the Czech film scene; a good, solid thriller that’s in and out and gets the job done with a short (86-minute) running time.