Runtime: 118 minutes
Director: Jennifer Kaytin Robinson
Writers: Celeste Ballard, Jennifer Kaytin Robinson
Actors: Camila Mendes, Maya Hawke, Austin Abrams, Ava Capri, Rish Shah, Alisha Boe, J.D.
By Tom Moore
It needs to be acknowledged that writer/director Jennifer Kaytin Robinson is quickly becoming a must-watch force with all the great work she’s been putting out. Not only has she co-written films like “Thor: Love and Thunder”(2022) and “Unpregnant,”(2020) but her feature directorial debut “Someone Great,”(2019) which she also wrote, is one of the best rom coms in recent years. Now, she returns with “Do Revenge,” a scathing revenge tale with a strong comedic bite and story.
Drea (Camila Mendes) and Eleanor (Maya Hawke) are two teenage girls who attend the same posh private school and couldn’t be more different, except for desires of personal revenge. Drea seeks revenge against her popular ex-boyfriend Max (Austin Abrams) after a sext video leaks to the entire school making her a social pariah. Eleanor wants to tear down Carissa (Ava Capri), a former crush who outed her as gay causing her to become the victim of harsh rumors. Now, Drea and Eleanor come together to do revenge by switching targets, but their revenge comes at unexpected costs and unearths hidden truths.
“Do Revenge” instantly evokes the vibes of late 90’s teen comedy classics like “She’s All That”(1999) and “10 Things I Hate About You”(1999) through some of its storytelling nods and style. There’s a small clique tour that hits on fun friend group tropes. Its depiction of the “popular” group hits similar beats but is mixed with the atmosphere of social media and modern wealthy private school living that makes the characters super satirical. Robinson’s direction with “Do Revenge’s” comedy and visual style just instantly acts as this nostalgic treat for viewers that’s modernized in the right ways. Plus, once you see who they picked to play the school’s headmaster, you almost can’t help but cheer at seeing this 90’s genre icon return in grand fashion.
The film is much more than just nostalgia though as “Do Revenge” features a surprisingly strong story that hooks you from the start and sees some strong performances elevate the comedy and characters. Mendes and Hawke are an excellent pairing who constantly deliver great laughs and a combined energy that gives the film its snarky charm. It’s an absolute blast to watch these two craft this elaborate revenge scheme and teach each other the ins and outs of their targets. They undoubtedly deliver one of their strongest performances to date and are surrounded by young talent that add in their own comedic moments and personalities to the film to create this consistently funny experience.
It helps too that Robinson and Celeste Ballard’s script is deeply engaging thanks to the film’s easy to love premise elevated by Robinson’s direction. The film easily hooks viewers early through the detailed and engaging nature of its narration and set-up making you instantly invested into Drea and Eleanor’s cravings for revenge. Everything that follows their first meeting just makes you more hooked on their story as there are some fun jokes and situations that arise from Drea and Eleanor trying to achieve their revenge and their opposition, mainly Max, always managing to find a way out. Even better is that it all leads to an AMAZING third act twist that changes your entire perspective on everything.
“Do Revenge” undoubtedly takes inspiration from the Alfred Hitchcock classic “Strangers on a Train” and this twist turns the film into that kind of thriller by greatly reinventing the idea of two people coming together for revenge. The performances, especially Hawke’s, rise to new heights, the shift in tone is flawless and immensely compelling, and it completely reinvests you into the story. It’s probably one of the most satisfying twists I’ve seen in quite some time with how the story elevates its revenge qualities and adds new stakes that are thrilling to see play out. However, “Do Revenge” can’t make the most of its game changing twist as subpar storylines tend to linger throughout.
While Drea and Eleanor’s revenge escapades drive most of the film, there are these romantic subplots thrown in that are way too thin to be anything special and ultimately make the film bloated. They generally feel like padding or a distraction and make such little impact that they’re wrapped up in the credits. The film also struggles to confidently stay the course of its twists with how it tries to make Max more villainous in the end making the moments of reconciling weak and not as satisfying. Also, it just feels like there are some character details mentioned, like Drea not being like the other rich popular kids in terms of wealth, that are under-utilized and make no impact on the film or its characters.
Even with some cracks in the final act and an unnecessary plot thread here and there, Robinson crafts another great watch with “Do Revenge” as it reinvents teenage revenge in thrilling and hilarious ways to create an incredibly fun and engaging comedy with some standout performances from Mendes and Hawke as well as unforgettable laughs and thrills.