Avenged (2015) – Raw Review

The butchered will be Avenged, the butchers will be Savaged.

 

Avenged (originally titled Savaged) is a tightly crafted journey into the darker plains of the American Southwest. Clearly a labor of love for filmmaker Michael S. Ojeda, he’s credited with writing, editing, and directing the film, along with cinematography.
The storyline is fairly straight forward. When a deaf woman falls prey to a gang of evil men her body is inhabited by an apache warrior on a quest for vengeance. Sounds similar to any number of other films but what sets Avenged apart from the rest is style and attention to craft.

The film is visceral, both graphically and emotionally. There is brutality, rape, and quite a bit on screen gore, yet it never consumes the story. Every scene furthers the plot. Ojeda manages the film’s violence well, giving us a healthy amount when appropriate but never going over the top.
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The screenplay is tight, well written and cleverly crafted. Things make sense. The characters are consistent and don’t suddenly decide to change personalities right when needed. Standard isolation tropes that even a majority of big budget tentpole films suffer from are avoided completely – cell phones have signal, local police are able to conduct crime scene investigation, government corruption doesn’t run all the way to the top.
Solid performances across the board from the troupe of actors . Amanda Adrienne is extremely compelling as Zoe. She handles both the action and dramatic scenes equally well and is quite frightening when in full combat mode. It’s nice to see another film where the female character kick the shit out of the bad guys.
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The villains are also much more complex than they seem. Throughout the film Ojeda deftly drops clues to their motivations, which as it turns out are built on more than just bad attitudes and intolerance. Tom Ardavany puts in a solid performance as West, the sort-of second in command of the family responsible for all the horrible shit that happens. And Rodney Rowland… holy fuckin shit… he steals the show as Trey, the self-proclaimed leader of the gang. Trey is despicable in every way, as evil as them come, but Rowland’s handling of the character is so compelling he quickly becomes just as compelling as Zoe. A standout performance by Rowland that will hopefully see him land more starring roles in the future.
Avenged is destined to become a classic within it’s genre. Raw and powerful storytelling combined with exceptional filmmaking turn what could have been a standard revenge film into a complex and powerful journey between opposing moralities. Attention to detail, solid acting, excellent cinematography and heavy action make this one of our favorite movies so far this year. Michael Ojeda is a filmmaker to an eye on.

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