Vengeance Road aka American Muscle (2014) DVD Review

vengeanceroad1VENGEANCE ROAD aka American Muscle ( USA, 2014)

Dir- Ravi Dahr

Starring- Nick Principe, Robin Sydney, Todd Farmer, Trent Haaga

Out Now in the UK from Metrodome

Ravi Dahr’s VENGEANCE ROAD, treads a familiar path in story and style, with a nod to the grindhouse aesthetic that has been so over done (sometimes good, sometimes god awful), that clearly is shown in its colourful opening titles, and it’s overall trashy content. Yet that’s not to write the film off, as amongst the sex, nudity, sleazy characters there’s a film that does try and gain enough attempts to push it above the usual straight to DVD fare, and not just be another lazy Grindhouse homage with a good title but nothing else going for it.

Originality is not the calling card for the films plot, which focuses on recently released prisoner John Falcon (Prinicipe), who has just finished a 10 year sentence, and has revenge only on his mind. Particularly revenge on his brother, Sam (Farmer) who was the one who left him to take the fall for a botched robbery, and his brethren’s gang of sleazy crooks, which also include Falcon’s wife, Darling (Sydney) who seems to be mostly stuck in a drug haze, thanks to an addiction to crack, and is being used for sex by Sam’s group. We learn in flashback how Falcon fell for Darling, and we see her slowly being taken over by her addiction, with his wife still around Falcon seems headed towards his brother’s hideout but on his quest for bloody vengeance, and to reunite himself with his beloved he takes a few shots and receives some bloody injuries along the way, and it’s not long before the initial showdown and confrontation where we start to see the true picture of what happened on the night of the botched robbery.

Vengeance-Road-1Admittedly as mentioned before, plot wise we are not treading on anything new here, but that is okay as at first what the film lacks in this department, it more than makes up through some style and performances. Dahr is confident to work with his material and add depth and some semblance of originality in his visual style, adding a surreal quality and stylish tone particularly in some of the drug haze scenes featuring Darling, and in her flashback scenes. He is also confident in handling some of the brutal actions scenes and gore, which hark back to the grindhouse style and will please fans, and on top of that putting in necessary moments of sleaze, as the film has plenty of nude ladies on display, and some sleazy OTT characters, particularly one of Sam’s group who is a tattooed and mohawked gun toting lady henchwoman, who looks like a suicide girl, and is more than willing to go up against Falcon. Casting wise Dahr has certainly managed to pull some interesting and familiar genre regulars.

Firstly Principe, who has a resume covering a lot of recent horror flicks, is physically suited for his role. Over 6 ft tall and covered in tattoo’s he’s the sort of character you don’t want to get on the bad side of, especially one out for blood. Yet while he does have limited dialogue at first (though a particularly great line he says at the start is “They owe. They pay” is very good and becomes his catchphrase, briefly), he does have some emotion and vulnerability to his character particularly in his sequences with Darling, both in flashback and in present. And in casting the double crossing sibling, with Todd Farmer in this role, is a clever move as Farmer will be known to genre fans as the man who wrote the screenplays for JASON X, MY BLOODY VALENTINE re-make and the daft but highly enjoyable Nic Cage film DRIVE ANGRY, and carrying on this genre flavour is the casting of Trent Hagaa who has a brief but entertaining role as the drug addled Styles. Added to this and rounding off the main cast as Falcon’s lady is Robin Sydney, who has certainly made her name as an actress in some of Full Moon Features output, and who puts in a good performance as Darling, showing off her elusive wild nature and slow breakdown into addiction.

Vengeance-Road-2-570x298Despite as mentioned before the lack of originality in the plot, and some annoying uses of CGI blood effects, Dahr has managed to craft an entertaining revenge flick that packs some strong action, blood and sleaze to satisfy the grindhouse crowd or rather genre crowd. Aswell as this he also manages to add some style and depth, particularly with a measured and dark look at drug addiction, rather than sink into mindless homage that this could have ended up as.


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James Pemberton

About James Pemberton

James has been a horror fan ever since he was 6 when he used to watch hammer horror films on late night tv. He is currently living and working in Manchester, occasionally gets work on helping out with short films and music videos, and in his other spare time like to go to heavy metal gigs, cinema and horror film festivals and has attended Frightfest in London 3 years in a row, as well as Frightfest Glasgow, and Grimm up North festival. He is planning on trying to get to either Fantasia in Montreal or Sitges in Spain, some point in his life!