Do not repay anyone evil for evil, but take thought
for what is noble in the sight of all. 18 If it is possible,
so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.
Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave room
for the wrath of God; for it is written, “Vengeance is
mine, I will repay, says the Lord.”
Dwayne Johnson, known only as “Driver” in this vengeance movie, has probably never read the words of the apostle Paul. No surprise, given his sordid family background and entanglement in crime.
Driver is not his name but a description of his role in a bank-robbing gang. He has just been released after serving a ten year pridon sentence, and he has a lethal bucket list—to kill all of his former colleagues because they had murdered his brother. (We see many a flashback to the time when the pair were held captive by the evil gang.) Almost before we know it he scratches the first name off his list when he marches into a call and center and shoots the former gang member in the head. Then it’s on to hunt down the next person on his list.
Meanwhile the Billy Bob Thornton character known only as Cop (this film isn’t much on naming its characters!) is assigned to work with a female investigator on the trail of the killer. We will at length learn that Cop has some serious issues in his past.
Of the people deserving of death on Driver’s list the most interesting is Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje’s Evangelist. While in prison this gang member “saw the light” and, once out of prison became a tent revivalist with a ministry dealing especially with youth. There is real tension when Driver catches up with him and the clergyman kneels on the ground praying. However, he is not praying as much for his life as for Driver. An intriguing scene that sets this pay-back film a little apart, but not far enough to redeem itself or suggest that there might be a better way than violence in righting wrong.
For refelction/Discussion 1. Compare this to other vengeance films that you have seen? How are the persons killed always portrayed as deserving of what they get? How does the Evangelist complicate the simple formula?
2. Compare the Driver to Clint Eastwood’s cowboy character in Unforgiven or John Malkovich’s New York Times journalist in Eleni. Does the Driver seem to have an ounce of their insight? In the latter two films, one follows through with violence, and one does not: what is it that restrains the one from exacting vengeance?
3. Were you wondering why the Driver kept listening to the radio evangelist on his car radio? How do the short segments we here in which the clergyman talks about God, love, and change, set up the confrontation with the Evangelist?
4. In what trouble spots of the world do we see the futility of the cycle of vengeance? Note how in the film Munich the main character opts out of the cycle after leading an assassination team bent on avenging the murder of the Israeli Olympic athletes: why does he do so?