Netflix’s latest attempt at creating an edgy teen cult classic is Jennifer Kaytin Robinson’s “Do Revenge.” The film follows two high school students at an expensive private school, Drea, Camila Mendes, and Eleanor, Maya Hawke, who agree to enact revenge on one another’s bullies.
Drea will target the girl who outed and spread a nasty rumor about Eleanor, and Eleanor will infiltrate the school’s popular clique to expose Drea’s ex-boyfriend, who leaked a private video of hers. As they become more obsessed with getting revenge, their once-blossoming friendship begins to crumble.
“Do Revenge” is loosely based on Alfred Hitchcock’s 1951 thriller “Strangers on a Train,” which follows two men who agree to “exchange” murders with each other, so there’s no way they can be traced back to the crimes. The two men form a bond that quickly devolves into a toxic co-dependency — something that is appropriately mirrored and modernized in “Do Revenge.” The film also draws inspiration from a myriad of classic teen comedies, namely “Mean Girls,” “Heathers” and “John Tucker Must Die.”
The film hits all the major tropes, including the manic pixie dream girl/boy, makeover montage and unrealistic high school party. It oftentimes teeters the line between cringey and campy. Some one-liners are clever, but others feel out of touch and exaggerated. The writers’ idea of Gen Z seems like a warped caricature, which is somewhat justified considering the film’s satirical nature.
Mendes, the clear standout of the film, has a particularly fun time delivering these quippy bits of dialogue. Her comedic timing makes the cringe-inducing writing feel clever instead. It’s refreshing to see her in something other than “Riverdale,” and I’m looking forward to when she’ll be free from the shackles of that show if it means she’ll be able to explore other comedic roles.
Hawke, although overshadowed by Mendes, is also great in her role. Her naturally timid demeanor complements Mendes’s eagerness, and their chemistry is fabulous. The supporting cast is also great, though underutilized. Sophie Turner completely owns her two minutes of screen time as a rage-filled tennis player, and I wish she had more time to shine. Alisha Boe also brings a level of sweetness and compassion to her role as Drea’s ex-best friend.
Austin Abrams is particularly perfect as Max, Drea’s ex-boyfriend and the film’s main antagonist. His character accurately represents the new breed of misogyny disguising itself as feminism and allyship to a scary degree. One of the best gags of the entire film occurs when he announces the formation of the “Cis Hetero Men Championing Female Identifying Students League” at a school rally. Drea and Eleanor see through the façade, but the rest of the school swoons.
“Do Revenge” targets many of our generation’s flaws: narcissism, materialism and our obsession with status. While the film certainly delivers some sharp commentary, it never fully commits to the satirical edge that’s expected.
The final twist is satisfying and well-executed, but the quality of the writing drops after the big reveal. Unlike “Strangers on a Train” and “Heathers,” “Do Revenge” is all bark and no bite: a film more concerned with its aesthetic and soundtrack than having a coherent third act.