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Vengeance

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vengeance movie summary

A writer from New York City attempts to solve the murder of a girl he hooked up with and travels down south to investigate the circumstances of her death and discover what happened to her.

“Vengeance” sounds like the title of an action thriller. There have been films with that name before. But although vengeance is discussed in “Vengeance”—the first feature from writer/director/star B.J. Novak, co-star and co-writer of the American version of “The Office”—it has a lot more on its mind. Too much, probably.

The story begins in earnest when New Yorker writer and aspiring public intellectual Ben Manalowitz (Novak) gets a call at his Manhattan apartment late one night from Ty Shaw (Boyd Holbrook), who lives in one of the flattest backwaters in West Texas, a small town five hours’ drive from Abilene, which is two hours and forty minutes from Dallas. Ty is calling to tell Ben that his sister, Ben’s girlfriend—who is oddly also named Abilene, Abby for short—has died.

Ben doesn’t have a girlfriend named Abby. He’s a player who hooks up with many women. But a quick check of his phone confirms that he did indeed have sex with an aspiring singer named Abby (Lio Tipton) a few times and then forgot about her. Somehow he ends up letting himself be talked into traveling to Abby’s hometown, attending her funeral, and commiserating with her grieving family, which also includes her younger sisters Paris (Isabella Amara) and Kansas City (Dove Cameron), her kid brother El Stupido (Elli Abrams Beckel), and her mother Sharon (J. Smith-Cameron). Then Ty tells Ben that Abby was murdered, probably by a Mexican drug dealer named Sancholo (Zach Villa), and asks if he’ll help the family seek, well, you know.

Ben is a narcissist who seems to view every relationship and experience as a way of raising his status as a writer and quasi-celebrity, so it seems unbelievable at first that he’d travel to Texas to attend the funeral of a woman he didn’t really know. But the notion begins to seem more plausible once he starts talking to the family and slotting them into his prefabricated East Coast media-industrial-complex notions of “red state” and “blue state” people, and spinning his theories about temporal dislocation. Modern technology, he says, allows every person to exist in every moment except the present if they so choose. The desire for vengeance, we are told, is exclusively a backward-looking urge.

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