I'm going to go ahead and declare the 2000's as the decade of the French. Well, at least in terms of horror movies that is. One may argue that Irreversible is not a horror film or that it straddles that line from time to time without completely venturing into the realm. But once you see it, you'll rank it high on the list of notoriously 'classic' rape/revenge films.
Playing much like Memento, the film is shown in a backwards chronology of events leading up to a confrontation between a pair of buddies and a man who raped their female friend. Both men have a current relationship with their victimized female counterpart: one as current boyfriend and another as ex; a good friend but obviously clinging to the off chance that she will dump her current beau and get back with him. The film shockingly starts as both men track down the assailant at a gay club (appropriately called Rectum) where they exact their revenge in a brutalized fashion. With the current boyfriend momentarily disabled, the more awkward and unassuming ex repeatedly beats the man with a fire extinguisher with such fervor and reckless abandonment that to start the film off in such away, immediately and emotionally connects the viewer.
'Oh great', you say. 'Thanks Cortez, now why should I watch the rest of this?' Interestingly enough, it keeps you on pins and needles as you want to know why these two men are hellbent on exacting their revenge. From the trek through town in search of the club, to their wild and crazy party leading up to the rape, and the rape itself, its an interesting weaving of a tale that asks the all too important question thats necessary in a film like this: 'What would you do?' The unfolding of the relationship between all three friends gives such depth and gut wrenching weight to what was viewed at the beginning. And the most shocking element that I found was not the rape itself (although it was incredibly disturbing), it was the unassuming, self-deprecating, still sticking around in the hopes of getting back together ex who actually ended up being the more malicious and relentlesss of the two.
A hard one to recommend for sure but ultimately, I do. As mentioned, the rape scene is entirely disturbing (its about 20 minutes long and rivals that of I Spit on Your Grave AKA Day of the Woman). But if you can get through that, there is a lot more going on with this film. And the surrealist way in which some of the scenes were shot adds another level of depth. Almost like you were inside the minds of the characters as they went through a sort of uncontrollable, completely out of their mind, experience.
An incredible movie it will stay with you long after the credits roll. I'm still trying to figure out if they killed the right guy or not.
Ed. Note: I've re-watched the film and in fact, the wrong guy was killed. This leads me to believe that overall, the director is making a direct statement about revenge and how it lacks any merit.
Cortez the Killer