As Netflix’s crusade to deliver an endless stream of content has resulted in a fair few underwhelming titles of late (looking at you, Me Time), it’s all too easy to underestimate the streaming giant’s new releases. Do Revenge seems like a classic cash-in: it borrows the general premise of a Hitchcock classic, and it features two teen it-girls in major roles – Camila Mendes is best known for her role on Riverdale and Maya Hawke for Stranger Things. Taking a cinematic classic and recycling it for a modern teen audience doesn’t inspire a huge amount of excitement, setting a relatively low bar for Do Revenge.
Almost from the off, Do Revenge clears that bar by a considerable margin. Camila Mendes’s Drea starts the film from a Mean Girls position, only to have her social status ripped away by a severe invasion of privacy that’s also hinted to be a massive betrayal of trust. By not fully revealing the mastermind behind Drea’s downfall, Do Revenge manages to instill an element of mystery into its plot, but it’s primarily a story of comedy, drama, and (unsurprisingly) revenge.
Do Revenge‘s premise will be familiar to anyone who’s seen Strangers on a Train: two teens with minimal prior knowledge of one another decide to work together to get revenge on each other’s enemies. However, Do Revenge makes use of the conventions of the teen drama genre, too. High school politics inform its story as much as its premise, but first and foremost, it’s a character-driven narrative that follows multiple compelling protagonists.
In making such thorough use of each facet of its story and characters, Do Revenge feels far more fleshed out than anyone would have expected. Though its overall themes of the cruelty and selfishness of youth and hypocrisy of a patriarchal society are perhaps a little on the nose, they are delivered with significant conviction to make Do Revenge feel deeper than a simple teen comedy-drama. There’s more to Do Revenge than the bare bones of its story – it actually explores much deeper issues on both personal and societal levels, and that makes it particularly fascinating.
There’s a lot at work in Do Revenge, and at times, it feels a little overstuffed with twists and turns. Generally speaking though, it’s deeply enjoyable and almost deceptively layered, making it an unexpected standout of Netflix’s 2022 efforts. Maya Hawke and Camila Mendes both deliver excellent performances that capture the rage, casual cruelty, and highs and lows of modern adolescence in a way that’s so rarely committed to the screen.
Do Revenge may not be the most original or innovative movie, but it doesn’t claim to be. It revels in its inspirations, cobbling together various tropes and ideas into something genuinely exciting that also manages to pay homage to the many genres that it loosely fits into. Though it may not be a cinematic masterpiece, it’s well-written, well-acted, and well-executed by all involved.
Summary: A dark and complex take on the teen comedy genre, Do Revenge manages to both represent and satire the most hypocritical aspects of modern society while still being genuinely entertaining.
Highlights: Camila Mendes’ performance as Drea is delightfully unhinged and subverts all expectations brilliantly.