Art and entertainment are, generally, mutually exclusive categories, and so it is the case here: no one could mistake South Florida’s Joseph Adler’s cult classic Revenge Is My Destiny as anything serious or substantial. It tells a story with superficial characters, the major one of which is a wounded Vietnam veteran, Ross Archer. The film is amiable, not probing, least of all about the war, which has taken away one of Archer’s eyes, over which he wears a black eye-patch. The former U.S. Army Green Beret comes home only to discover that his wife apparently has died, perhaps was murdered, perhaps by the sleazy nightclub owner for whom she worked, or by the former SS official living a life of leisure incognito. Archer investigates. It is as though the pulp mystery fiction into which he has fallen is some sort of hangover from his combat experience, bits of which flash through his consciousness. At times Adler’s film seems a parody of Norman Jewison’s In the Heat of the Night (1967)—or even The Maltese Falcon (John Huston, 1941).
Given what it is, nobody needs to see this film; but “essential viewing only” makes for a poor film-going diet. It can strike one’s cinematic palate like a too-severe Chardonnay. Revenge Is My Destiny is a lot of fun. For the record, it is a whole lot better film than either In the Heat of the Night or the year’s Oscar-winning best picture, another crime/detective film, The French Connection (William Friedkin, 1971).
Shot largely in Miami, with a dip into the Everglades, the film is scenic, its characters colorful, and Chris Robinson brings breezy charm to Archer’s tough-guy act. I wish the film had spawned a series of mysteries with Robinson reviving his Ross Archer.
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