Revenge (1990) from Johnny Web (Uncle Scoopy; Greg Wroblewski) and Tuna

Scoop's notes

"Zorba, teach me to kill"

Zorba the Greek plays a ruthless and powerful Mexican patrón, and Kevin Costner is the fighter pilot who once saved Zorba's life and is now his friend. Ol' Zorba likes having Costner around his hacienda because ... well, basically because nobody else has the cojones to tell the truth to a ruthless power-mad dictator-in-waiting. But Costner kinda slips up. It's a Garden of Eden for him down there in Mexico - he can insult Quinn's friends, drink his whiskey, wreck his cars, sleep in his house, do everything he wants except one thing. The forbidden fruit is Mrs. Zorba, played by Madeleine Stowe. So, of course, to continue the whole Garden of Eden parallel, Costner must have her.

Ol' Kev bides his time and waits for Zorba to start his inevitable dancing, then Costner and Mrs Zorba enter the circle of forbidden passion while the music drowns out their lovemaking noises.

Oh, man, does this tick Zorba off when he figures it out. Ouch! The two guys spend the rest of the movie hunting each other down and hurting each other. First Zorba finds out where Costner and Stowe are having their liaison, and he proceeds to burn down the house, beat Costner to a bloody unrecognizable pulp, and send Stowe to a whorehouse, where she is kept on heroin and has to service 50 men a day. Even more on Sundays and Holy Days.

Luckily for Costner, he is tended back to life by a sympathetic neighbor. Costner remembers that he left a hundred zillion dollars under the floorboards of the burned-out cabin, so he goes back there, gets the dough, and plans his own revenge.

Zorba actually did dance in this movie, although not to Greek zither music, but to various Mexican tunes. I really enjoyed the Mexican music they used in the score: new arrangements of traditional favorites, romantic ballads - a lot I've never heard before in a lot of different styles. I didn't really enjoy much else. The film is long, brutish, and nasty. A lot like life itself.


Additional notes on the unrated director's cut.

When I heard that Tony Scott was planning to do an unrated director's cut of this film, I was stoked to see it, for reasons both aesthetic and erotic. On the artistic side, it has always seemed to me that this film was a near-miss, just a mediocre film, but with a good film buried somewhere inside of it. On the erotic side, both Scott and Madeleine Stowe have discussed the fact that he filmed some "explicit" erotica for this film that he could never use because the studio simply would not let him make the film he wanted to make. The theatrical release had some steamy clutches, but the nudity was coy.

Alas, all my hopes were dashed. This unrated director's cut is not the film a young Tony Scott wanted to make in 1990, but simply the film he now prefers. If there truly was some very explicit erotica filmed back then, it does not appear in new director's cut. There are slightly longer versions of three sex scenes, but they don't add nudity. One of the sex scenes, the first encounter between Costner and Stowe in a cloakroom, is rendered somewhat confusing by a few seconds of additional footage in which Stowe gets angry and slaps Costner, whereupon Costner gets angry in turn, knocks over some clothing, flings some coats, then goes back to Stowe and kisses her violently. It's never really clear why any of that is happening, or what the characters might be thinking.

Setting aside the sex and nudity, I don't believe that the changes made the film better. Scott did add ten minutes of footage which had never been seen before, but in the process of doing that he chopped twenty minutes off the running time, which means he eliminated thirty minutes of old footage. That's a lot to cut. He justifies it in the name of pacing. In the extra features, Scott admits that he's a guy who likes to get down to business quickly and to strip things down to the bare essentials. In doing so here, however, he eliminated a lot of the characters' essential motivation. Watching through the director's cut without referring back to the theatrical release, I was not able to understand why Stowe was unhappy with her husband, or why Costner was so quick to betray a man who was supposed to be a dear friend. Those elements were much clearer in the previous cut. The cuts also eliminated one of the best scenes in the film, a scene in which a post-beating Costner bonds with a local played by John Leguizamo. Losing that scene was bad enough by itself, but in context its removal also reduced Leguizamo's role to a cameo. I'm not even sure I would have recognized him.

I could continue to enumerate loose ends created and characters left undeveloped by the removal of thirty minutes of the film, but I think you all understand that thirty minutes is a very large amount of film, and the excision of so much footage two decades after a film's release will inevitably cause some problems.

That sad thing to me is that there were several other scenes which could have been eliminated if Scott wanted to improve the pacing of the film and reduce its running time. There is a long prologue in which Costner's risk-taking personality is established by some hot-dogging aerial maneuvers in his jet. None of that had any real bearing on the central story. To make matters worse, Tony Scott muddled up that sequence with some unnecessary and confusing symbolic foreshadowing, in which the hotshot aviator Costner flies carelessly over the Mexican desert, while a forlorn, post-beating Costner crawls half-dead beneath him. (At that time it makes no sense at all.) After the flight, Costner attends his farewell party (his Navy hitch is up), and that scene also could have been shortened or even cut entirely if necessary without losing anything crucial to the film.

After I watched the director's cut, I re-read my review of the theatrical release and noticed that I had complimented the musical score of unusual and new-to-me Mexican folk and ranchero music. For reasons unclear to me, the director's cut seems to have a re-tooled sound track, and I never really noticed the music at all.

All in all, the "director's cut" is a major disappointment. In fact, I believe strongly that the film was better as it was! If you are interested in the film, get the R-rated theatrical release, which also includes a full screen version to go with the widescreen theatrical aspect ratio.



  • No features in the theatrical cut, but there are two versions: widescreen and full screen.
  • The director's cut has a full-length commentary by director Tony Scott, as well as a ten minute featurette on the sex and violence, as discussed by the three principals (Scott, Stowe, Costner) in interviews.



Breasts from Madeleine Stowe

Buns from Kevin Costner

R-rated Theatrical Version Unrated Director's Cut

Tuna's notes

Complete Spoilers (R-rated theatrical version)

Revenge (1990) is a Kevin Costner action romance. Costner is a naval aviator (the F-14 Tomcat) and decides to leave the Navy after 12 years, go to Mexico, and fall in love with the wife of a leading crime figure, Anthony Quinn

And that is the better half of the movie!

Quinn finds out, and doesn't take it well. He beats up Costner and leaves him for dead, burns Costner's cabin to the ground, slices Stowe from mouth to ear, and makes her turn tricks in a whorehouse, where she is given regular doses of heroin. Costner swears counter-revenge. When he finally catches up with Quinn and learns the location of Stowe, he apologizes and lets Quinn go. The final scene is right out of a romance novel, as the hero and heroine are finally reunited at the end, only to have her die happily in his arms in a romantic location.

Can we have a long sigh while some of us dry our eyes? As expected, this is a chick-flick, granny variety, with women scoring it higher than men and women over 45 giving it the highest grade of any demographic group. Besides a sappy plot, the film has to contend with bad acting by Costner, and a one dimensional villain played by Anthony Quinn. Madeleine Stowe did what was required, looking great and showing some skin. While some of the locations were very nice, the transfer is too soft to do them justice. Not only is this poorly written and acted, but it runs an excessive 120 minutes.

The Critics Vote ...

  • Roger Ebert 2.5/4

The People Vote ...

  • It grossed $15 million in the USA
The meaning of the IMDb score: 7.5 usually indicates a level of excellence equivalent to about three and a half stars from the critics. 6.0 usually indicates lukewarm watchability, comparable to approximately two and a half stars from the critics. The fives are generally not worthwhile unless they are really your kind of material, equivalent to about a two star rating from the critics, or a C- from our system. Films rated below five are generally awful even if you like that kind of film - this score is roughly equivalent to one and a half stars from the critics or a D on our scale. (Possibly even less, depending on just how far below five the rating is.

My own guideline: A means the movie is so good it will appeal to you even if you hate the genre. B means the movie is not good enough to win you over if you hate the genre, but is good enough to do so if you have an open mind about this type of film. C means it will only appeal to genre addicts, and has no crossover appeal. (C+ means it has no crossover appeal, but will be considered excellent by genre fans, while C- indicates that it we found it to be a poor movie although genre addicts find it watchable). D means you'll hate it even if you like the genre. E means that you'll hate it even if you love the genre. F means that the film is not only unappealing across-the-board, but technically inept as well. Any film rated C- or better is recommended for fans of that type of film. Any film rated B- or better is recommended for just about anyone. We don't score films below C- that often, because we like movies and we think that most of them have at least a solid niche audience. Now that you know that, you should have serious reservations about any movie below C-.

Based on this description, this is a C-. Unpleasant genre film. Only for revenge film addicts.

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