Revenge westerns are obviously in vogue at the moment, thanks to the tremendous success of Tarantino’s Django Unchained.

Well, if you want a female slant on the genre you better make a beeline for Sweet Vengeance, an entertaining offering that at times proves brutal, funny, moving and straight-up exciting.

Packed with great performances, nicely paced and laced with endless stunning cinematography, director Logan Miller’s flick is one not to be missed.

January Jones headlines as Sarah Ramirez, struggling to make her way on dusty crop land with her husband Miguel.

They keep themselves to themselves and live by the law, only to be constantly harassed by local prophet and town overlord Josiah (played with delicious relish by Jason Isaacs).

Josiah is one of those religious zealots who will happily spout biblical verse while gunning people down in cold blood, or while bedding a succession of women.

Anyway, Josiah fancies getting his hands on the Ramirez’s land, and if that means brutally murdering Miguel, then so be it.

But the prophet hadn’t banked on Sarah being the gung-ho bad-ass she turns out to be, with the widow deciding to burn down her own house, grab herself some weapons and set about gunning down Josiah’s cronies, before taking on the big man himself.

Things are further complicated when the ‘Holy Land’(the name given to Josiah’s territory) gets a new sheriff in the shape of the eccentric Jackson (Ed Harris).

And, with Jackson also seeing through Josiah’s religious sheen, it seems only a matter of time before the three forces collide.

Yes, Sweet Vengeance  is a western with a twist, but in many ways it is imbued with the DNA of Hannie Caulder, the 70s Raquel Welch revenge western where a widow takes arms against the men that murdered her husband in the old west.

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That said, it is still a refreshing change to see a female character headline a genre flick like this, and Jones runs with it – baring all (quite literally at times) in a display which positively simmers with anger.

I must admit though, even though Jones does more than enough, she is still upstaged in the acting stakes by both Harris and Isaacs – Harris for an off-the-wall performance as the incoming sheriff and Isaacs as a religious nut-job who proves a memorable villain.

In fact, Isaacs and his gang do such a good job on the ‘evil’ front (without ever becoming cartoony) that there is little doubt you will be rooting for Jones’ Sarah from the get-go.

The film is not overly violent, nor overly graphic, but there is plenty of action, especially as the film moves up a gear towards the conclusion.

And, if you ever wanted to see a peeping tom get a gun rammed up his bare ass and the trigger pulled, well here’s your chance.

Director Miller deserves great credit and the tone of the film is pretty much perfectly judged from first minute to last.

The locations are evocative, the cinematography excellent as the camera crawls across the dusty plains and the unobtrusive music neatly adds to the whole effect.

At just 90 minutes Sweet Vengeance could easily have been padded out a bit further, as events unfold very quickly in bursts when the various plotlines kick in.

But this really is me scratching for a fault in a film which proves mightily entertaining.

 

EXTRAS: Making Of featurette

 

About The Author

Simon Fitzjohn

Simon is a journalism tutor in London, who also just happens to be a movie fanatic, with a craving for the darker side of cinema. He has written two books, one on the horror films of director Bob Clark (2014) and the other on the history of the character Norman Bates (2015). His third book, on the work of British exploitation director Pete Walker, is due in 2017.