Revenge is a dish best served cold – or in this case soggy, in pellet form, and tasting like a combination of fish and synthetic meats. Isn’t that what dog food tastes like? Sorry, I don’t eat the slop myself, and definitely have never eaten a dog treat as the result of losing an ill-advised drunken bet. But why the dog references? As you can guess, Revenge For Jolly! isn’t your normal revenge flick, as the murderous rampage that takes place is brought on by the assassination of a sweet, innocent, little canine named Jolly. We all know a dog is man’s best friend, but would you kill for yours?
Harry (Brian Pestos), the owner of Jolly, is a loser-ish loner who keeps reminding us of the bad choices he’s made in the past. We can tell he’s not the most normal fellow by the way he lives in a dumpy home with a dog he worships, but his unstable nature is confirmed one night when one of his poor decisions catches up with him, as he comes home to find the love of his life, Jolly, hanging from his living room ceiling. Losing his cool, Harry calls up his cousin Cecil (Oscar Isaac) and informs him of the grave injustice just done, convincing him to aid in getting revenge for poor Jolly. What follows is a drunken night of fighting, killing, interrogating, and, of course, Mexican food.
I know what you’re thinking, Revenge For Jolly! sounds like a darkly comedic winner with a pulpy plot and opportunities for brutal violence all in the name of a pup named Jolly, and I wouldn’t argue you from the trailers or description. Hell, even the casting hints at something special, including bit parts from Kristen Wiig, Elijah Wood, Ryan Phillippe, Adam Brody, Gillian Jacobs, Garret Dillahunt, and Kevin Corrigan. Names like those wouldn’t attach themselves to a poorly misguided, tonally inept, humorless dark comedy with little value and even less payoff, right? Of course not! Wait, they did? Yup, Revenge For Jolly! is all those things, and so, so much more.
Revenge For Jolly! wants to be the next Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang, The Boondock Saints or Pulp Fiction, all films that are able to use death and killing as a comedic plot device, intertwining these brutal moments with witty banter about seemingly nothing. Unfortunately for Brian Pestos’ script, each moment in Revenge For Jolly! just seems like a hateful killing with no screen value or entertainment factor, coming off as mean-spirited instead of entertaining. Director Chadd Harbold also fails in creating any dark comedy out of Pestos’ chopped up kill sequences, letting things ramble on in the same hate-filled stupor that shows no understanding of what made the previously mentioned hit films so successful – over-the-top depictions of violence which become too absurd to take seriously, an even distribution of comedy and violence, and brilliant performances from numerous actors.
Our main characters also offer no relief in terms of entertainment, as the deadpan nature of each actor gives off a performance equally as drab and lacking vitality. In the films above, each one had equally vibrant characters who worked well within the audacious boundaries of their film’s plot, and yet again Revenge For Jolly! pays no attention to such specific details as both Harry and Cecil seemingly coast through the movie like emotionless, murderous drones on the fritz. Sure, Cecil tries to play the part of moral compass for Harry, but Pestos’ straight-faced, even voiced playing of Harry comes across as horribly boring, scarily out of place, too serious to be humorous, and completely wrong for the violence Pestos’ script details. For the perfect example, just look to Harry and Cecil’s Mexican dinner, where the two attempt to turn public drunkenness and ordering menu items into pure entertainment – failing with every single line. Rinse and repeat this formula for the full effect of Revenge For Jolly!.
Ending the film in properly detestable fashion, Revenge For Jolly!‘s closing number feels like somebody slammed on the breaks, thrusting your face flat against the windshield as you hit it full force, leaving you dazed, confused, in pain, and angry at the driver for causing such an avoidable conclusion.
I’m now going to say SPOILERS TO FOLLOW as I’m too aggravated not to mention how Revenge For Jolly! forgets the damn title to it’s own movie, as once we finally reach the revenge aspect, BAM – we’re hit with a title card and the film ends on a cliffhanger. What cliffhanger? We watch Harry walk in the killer’s house, following him after being invited in, the door closes, a few seconds pass, and we hear a gunshot. Is Harry dead because of his mysterious past? Did he kill the killer? Did they kill each other in a freak shootout where both guns shot at the exact same time, killing both characters dead? Honestly, who cares – I didn’t, and still don’t. As soon as the title card hit at the end, I was officially done with the braindead chaos created in Jolly’s name. SPOILERS OVER, dammit.
I know everything looks all fine and dandy on the outside of Revenge For Jolly!, I mean just look at that cute little doggy wearing a sombrero, but trust me when I say it’s all just an adorable ruse. If the material had been handled in a way that audiences could view the mindless violence in an entertaining light, say through ridiculousness and exploitation, then we might have had a surprising indie hit on our hands. Instead, we’re left watching a hollow, empty core of a film with no real meaning or driving force which can justify watching two irreprehensible men pump holes into innocent people, playing like an even worse version of the Uwe Boll “masterpiece” Postal - as least that heap of something had a laugh or two.