When the name Dead Cain pops into your head, I doubt the word “badass” hitches a ride with it. For me, hearing his name typically means old memories of his role as Superman in Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman, or even his chilling performance as Scott Peterson in the made for TV film, The Perfect Husband: The Laci Peterson Story. While being a good actor, it’s those types of roles that come to mind, and it leaves you as a viewer wondering what other chops he has in him. Thankfully, that question is answered with the Jen & Sylvia Soska-helmed VENDETTA, a film that reestablishes Cain as one tough S.O.B., all while telling an in your face story that never pulls a single punch.
A throwback to the days in which prison films were violent, abrasive and full of fun, VENDETTA takes Mason Danvers, a Detective played by Cain and pits him against two the two big and brawny brothers Victor and Griffin Abbot (Paul “The Big Show” Wight and Aleks Paunovic). It’s clear from the beginning of the film that there’s a long-standing feud between the cop and the criminal duo, and when Danvers busts Victor, the criminal is eventually let out on a technicality (aren’t they always let out on technicalities…start following through movie cops!). Steering the film into the “Hell in a Cell” atmosphere that the film’s poster mentions, is what happens next. The Abbot brothers, seeking revenge against Danvers, brutally murder the cop’s pregnant wife, leading Cain’s Danvers into a complete downward spiral. Victor is sent to prison and Griffin, well let’s just say that Danvers’ downward spiral culminated with him putting a bullet right into the second half of the the duo and sending him to, you guessed it, the prison that Victor resides in.
What we get from there on out, is one hell of a prison movie, filled to the absolute top with violence, revenge and corruption, with the prison’s corrupt warden being played by one of the best character actors working today, Michael Ecklund. His weaselly and conniving character is good at playing people, and turns a blind eye to the violence happening in his prison, as he’s one corrupt bastard of a character.
There’s a scene in VENDETTA, in which Danvers and Abbot finally come face to face, while sitting down for food in the prison’s cafeteria. With any other actors and directors who might not know how to approach a scene like the Soska sisters do, it could have steered the film into cheesy territory, but what the Soska’s are already masters of, is creating moments full of tension. It showed in their sophomore film, AMERICAN MARY and that led into their third film, SEE NO EVIL 2, a film that gave the slasher subgenre a really refreshing approach. Their eyes as filmmakers are well tuned to what they want, and when Cain’s Danvers sits down and Abbot sits in front of him, you’d expect the juggernaut of Abbot to hold court, but there’s a look in Danvers’ eyes that gives us as viewers the realization that Danvers has nothing left to lose and he’s just as intense and intimidating as Abbot is. It’s a crucial moment in the film, and one that sets up the tone for what’s ahead: beatings, stabbings and a full out riot that results in one hell of a showdown between Danvers and Abbot.
If you’re expecting AMERICAN MARY or even SEEN NO EVIL 2, then you’ll be pleasantly surprised, because with performances from Cain and Wight, and the every changing style of the Soska Sisters’ abilities to make every one of their films feel different and stand on their own two legs, VENDETTA is a film that will not disappoint.