Rendel: Dark Vengeance 2017
This post partially came about as voted by members of my Patreon. Each month, I offer four movies and it’s up to the patrons to help decide what I get to watch. If you would like in on this, all I ask is just $1 a month to help this site continue and to grow. This movie is hailed as Finland’s first superhero movie, and while I can’t verify that statistic myself, I do know that it’s the only one that I’m aware of. At least until the sequel comes out. It’s a lower budget film, but one that really uses the budget quite well. And while the popular opinion on it is fairly low to middling, I actually quite enjoyed this take on more or less the Punisher with a few other odds and ends thrown in as well as a couple nice expectation subversions. There were definitely some storytelling and pacing issues, but overall it was quite violent with a touch of very dark humor.
One of the biggest issues with this film is the narrative style and pacing. It goes for a more complicated non-linear narrative where we cut back and forth between the evil corporation being harrassed by superhero-mode Rendel and family guy Ramo who falls into the bad crowd, as it were. There’s also the added complication that as a superhero, Rendel does not speak at all so they introduced this white haired woman who pops up from time to time, usually after the bad guys have been dispatched to have a talk with Rendel. It’s not overly hard to follow, but it’s unclear as to who Rendel is, who this white haired woman is, and how everything connects together. And while these threads are connected as the movie goes on, it’s just not done in a very cohesive or satisfying way.
As far as the characters go, Rendel has an absolutely amazing look. It’s fairly simple with a leather biker jacket and a full face mask, but the detail on the mask has a great texture to it and the actor does a great job at showing off his presence without using words. The white haired woman is a bit of an odd presence. From a storytelling standpoint, she’s a necessity to essentially be the voice of Rendel since he doesn’t speak. Eventually, it’s fairly clear that she’s a figment of his imagination, and ultimately it turns out that she is the character from a fairy tale that he is shown to read to his daughter a couple times in the story. She doesn’t really add too much to the story and it muddies the waters as she bears a slight resemblance to his daughter as they both have very pale blonde hair.
The villains are also an odd bunch. The main villain, more or less, is the buffoonish son to the business/crime father. He likes to party, he’s a bit of an idiot, but he also has a sadistic side to him. It’s odd because there are several times throughout the movie where it appears that they are trying to make the audience feel sympathetic towards him. His father is verbally and at one point physically abusive to him. There’s a great moment where the son pulls a gun on his father only to have the father arrogantly walk up to him, grab the gun out of his hands, and start beating him with it. It’s a difficult line because if you start to feel sympathy for this character, you’re less likely to root for Rendel to kill him. There’s also a group of international assassins led by Radek who the film sets up to be the most badass of badasses. He pulls together this seemingly elite team, where he is the most feared and revered of them all, and they all speak English in this primarily Finnish movie. There’s another nice touch with that where the son has to speak to the assassins in English and it’s clear that his English is not very good. But when it comes to the climactic action scene, Rendel takes him out with a single ax to the chest before having full on fight scenes with the rest of the assassins. And when he comes back for a rematch, it once again ends anticlimactically where Rendel literally drops a car on Radek. It’s a great moment of dark humor and expectation subversion similar to the Indiana Jones moment with the gun.
The overall look of this film is also quite good, despite the fact that this is seemingly a lower budget production, all of the shots look excellent. There are plenty of minor special effects that are integrated very well, and while the fight choreography isn’t anything spectacular, it gets the job done and still looks quite good. It’s a dark movie, but you can always tell what’s going on, at least in a visual space rather than a narrative space. It’s difficult to judge the acting in a foreign film, but everyone seemed to play their part well. Ramo’s scenes are probably the least interesting as he’s not generally given that much to do. The scenes in the past just show him on a downward spiral from a loving family man to an unemployed guy down on his luck who falls into a crime organization as a numbers guy but for some reason chooses to investigate rather than follow orders and gets his family killed. The inciting scene and origin of the Rendel mask works well enough, but there’s also not enough interest or explanation on Ramo’s life before the mask to make you want to care. It’s more interesting just to see him carry out his vengeance/justice.
There are definitely some issues with this movie, but for the most part, it looks great, it has some good fights and a touch of dark humor and it all comes together in an entertaining way. There are some questions as to motivations and the narrative structure is a little muddy, but Rendel still comes off as a decent entry into superhero cinema from Finland. It goes dark and bloody, but there’s still that touch of dark humor to keep it from being overly grimdark. If the trivia is to be believed, there is a sequel in the works and I for one am looking forward to it. Until next time, this has been Bubbawheat for Flights, Tights, and Movie Nights.