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‘Do Revenge’ Review: Strangers on a Text Chain

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“Do Revenge,” directed by Jennifer Kaytin Robinson, is a playful, sharp-fanged satire that seems like the ’90s teen comedy hammered into modern emojis: crown, knife, fire, winky face. Drea Torres (Camila Mendes) is the Machiavellian queen of her pastel plaid-clad prep school. However the day after the ambitious scholarship student is coronated as certainly one of Teen Vogue’s ideal teens — an extravagant bash that slaps her face on balloons, cupcakes and topiaries — Drea is dethroned when her nude video is posted online.

Drea’s ex-boyfriend Max (Austin Abrams) claims innocence and preserves his popularity by founding an allyship group called the Cis Hetero Men Championing Female Identifying Students League. She isn’t buying his act. Yet, on this performative modern era, as penned by Robinson and Celeste Ballard, Drea’s legitimate rage can’t be legitimately unleashed without risk of expulsion, scholastic and social.

To reveal Max’s hypocrisy, Drea enlists a timid outcast named Eleanor (Maya Hawke) to swap their revenge targets in a personality assassination plot that riffs from mean girl icon Patricia Highsmith’s novel “Strangers on a Train.” (Highsmith goes uncited; the ladies prefer the wrathful enthusiasm of Glenn Close in “Fatal Attraction,” here called “Glennergy.”)

The script has an ear for youth speak, a diction of hyper-compliments (Eleanor refers to Drea as her “revenge mommy”) and dizzying, dissembling accusations of bullying. While the stress collapses within the disappointingly tame last act — the film would reasonably forged the “Cruel Intentions” star Sarah Michelle Gellar as its school principal than be so cruel itself — Robinson convinces the audience to share her giddy delight at pairing last generation’s highschool flick aesthetics with this generation’s ethical anguish, particularly within the soundtrack’s needle-drops where Courtney Love and Le Tigre mosh alongside Olivia Rodrigo and Billie Eilish.

Do Revenge
Not rated. Running time: 1 hour 58 minutes. Watch on Netflix.

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