Movie Review: Revenge for Jolly!

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A minor criminal goes on a bloody rampage after his dog is killed.

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Chadd Harbold, 2012

Harry (Brian Petsos) is a small-time crook who does mysteriously unspecific “jobs” for people with more power than him rather than having anything like a career or responsibilities. When he gets in over his head, his innocent chihuahua Jolly is killed in retribution. Furious, Harry drags his ex-con cousin Cecil (Oscar Isaac) along with him on his quest for revenge. They follow a series of leads to try to find a man they know only as Bachmeier (Ryan Philippe), who they discover is Jolly’s killer. An increasingly frustrated Harry gets more and more violent as he falls down the rabbit hole of vengeance, shooting anyone who gets in his way.

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Much like the relationship between Brian Petsos and Oscar Isaac in this film, Revenge for Jolly! is like the much less talented and attractive cousin of John Wick. While the premise is the same – criminal on revenge spree to kill the guy who killed his dog – John Wick did it with style and structure. Revenge for Jolly! is essentially the same scene over and over again: Harry and Cecil track down someone who might know something about the dog killer, the conversation goes sideways, Harry gets flustered and shoots someone, Cecil gets flustered and then everybody is shot. Repeat ad nauseum. The movie’s few bright spots happen in the moments when they break free of this cycle – Harry and Cecil talking about the letters Cecil’s girlfriend sent him in prison, or getting drunk at a Mexican restaurant, are the only moments when you actually feel like these characters might be humans at all. And even then it’s only really Cecil who starts to feel like a remotely sympathetic human being. Oscar Isaac is so much too good for this movie that it’s criminal; he infuses Cecil with as much character and humanity as he’s allowed to in between madcap violent moments. There’s a summary of this movie on Google that refers to Cecil as Harry’s “deranged” cousin; while Cecil is explicitly described as having some kind of mental illness, he’s practically a saint next to blank-faced, greasy-haired monster Harry, who had an unhealthy relationship with his dog (he constantly compares his relationship with Jolly to Cecil’s with his girlfriend) and repeatedly murders people for absolutely no reason.

The low-budget movie, written and produced by star Brian Petsos (who couldn’t even write himself a compelling role), manages to lure a few genuine stars into its murky depths. For some unfathomable reason, Ryan Philippe appears for all of two seconds in this film as the dog-killer. Kristen Wiig and Elijah Wood both appear in thankless, weird little roles, and Gillian Jacobs plays a murdered prostitute – you know, just for laughs. Something this film has very few of unless you’re as evil as Harry. The film falls into the “tell, don’t show” trap far too many times after opening with a flash-forward to the confrontation at the end of the film just to confuse everyone; we’re told rather than shown what kind of person Harry is at the start of the film, Harry keeps telling us he’s “not a bad person” when he is very obviously a very terrible person, and we barely get a glimpse of Jolly’s life with Harry before she is summarily hung. This, perhaps, is the biggest failing of this film when compared to the superior John Wick. John Wick made you really really love that puppy. Jolly’s barely in two scenes, and while it’s always awful to see a dog die, one can’t help but wonder if Jolly isn’t better off without the revolting Harry. I know I would have been better off never having met him or seen this dreadful, pointless movie. Do yourself a favour: don’t repeat my mistakes.

Revenge for Jolly! on IMDb

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