Fresh from last year’s award-winning festival run, Mark O’Brien’s The Righteous is now available to watch on Arrow Blu-ray – and to stream on ARROW. Basically, imagine if Ingmar Bergman decided to follow up The Virgin Spring with another revenge flick, and that’s The Righteous. This slow-paced and stately black-and-white flick follows a devout priest presented with the opportunity to avenge his dead daughter. But does he take it? You’ll have to watch to find out. It’s a unique take on the revenge genre, with an end twist that re-contextualises everything before it. And it put us in mind of some of our other favourite revenge movies. Removing The Virgin Spring from contention (it really is The Righteous’ biggest influence), what else could you double-bill with O’Brien’s dark masterclass, to really make the most of it? Here’s some recommendation suggestions…
While they might look like polar opposites at first glance – The Righteous is ‘60s subtle, combining low-key turns with black-and-white photography, while Mandy looks like it’s been ripped straight from the ‘80s, with bold color coming from both the cinematography and Nicolas Cage’s unhinged performance – but these two movies have more in common than you think.
Both are very carefully paced, building to unexpected (but logical) spectacle in the third act. And both feel like perfect combinations of arthouse and grindhouse (even if the scales are tipped differently in each movie). If you want an intense evening, stick on The Righteous first, then use Mandy as a tequila chaser.
Cape Fear (1991)
One of the most interesting elements of The Righteous is the sense of shifting morality. Just as you think one person is the flawless hero, the story’s flipped, before flipping again. It’s one of the aspects that makes it so compelling. It’s a face-off between two characters who have a very surprising history. Looking at it from that angle, we could almost be describing Cape Fear, the greatest revenge remake ever made.
Martin Scorsese’s masterpiece follows a vicious cat and mouse game between a violent convict Max Cady (Robert DeNiro) and his former lawyer Sam (Nick Nolte), who withheld evidence to allow him to be imprisoned. When he is eventually released, Cady embarks on a rampage of redemptive revenge. What’s especially interesting in this one is that Cady is technically in the right – even if he’s egregiously wrong in the path he takes to avenge himself. Shades of The Righteous for sure.
If you want another movie that combines religious mania with brutal revenge, Carrie is the best possible choice you can make. It’s also out on Arrow Blu-ray, and – helpfully – it’s one of the best films ever made. Not just in the revenge genre, but of all time.
Elevating Stephen King’s source material to high-art, Brian De Palma (working closely with his genius editor Paul Hirsch) delivered the story of Carrie White’s descent (ascent?) into vengeance in thrilling style, producing pure cinema from the opening moments. Again, put on The Righteous first, then look out for the unexpected ways in which these two movies crossover.
The Witch’s Mirror (1962)
Without getting too far into it (no spoilers, please), The Righteous has supernatural elements that create a unique overall experience. Basically, you won’t see the significant moments coming. Speaking of unpredictable supernatural stuff, The Witch’s Mirror feels like three (brilliant) films jostling for your attention at once.
Splicing Satanic horror with murder mystery and ghostly revenge drama, it opens with a woman having a vision of her death, and gets crazier from that point on. Highly recommended, and if you pair it with The Righteous, you’ll have a black-and-white binge you’ll never forget.
The Silent Partner (1978)
Look, The Silent Partner has almost nothing to do with The Righteous, outside of the revenge theme. It’s a full-colour crime movie, starring Elliot Gould as a bank teller who pisses off a bank robber by smartly stealing some of his take mid-robbery, leading to a cat-and-mouse revenge narrative where it’s never fully clear who’s the cat and who’s the mouse… Actually, that does connect it to The Righteous, we did it!
Either way, we can’t write a list like this and not highlight The Silent Partner, which is still one of the coolest films ever created. Brilliantly shot, scripted, and performed, The Silent Partner is a perfect, perfect movie. Highly recommended!
The White Ribbon (2009)
While it’s not as direct a revenge flick as some of the entries on this list, The White Ribbon certainly has elements of the genre. More importantly, it has a darkness at its heart that fans of The Righteous will definitely recognise. It’s another modern movie that uses black-and-white cinematography to help deliver its themes. According to director Michael Haneke, The White Ribbon is ‘about the roots of evil. Whether it’s religious or political terrorism, it’s the same thing.’ That sounds like as good a description of O’Brien’s debut feature as any.
This grim depiction of a small pre-war German village displays the very worst elements of humanity, as an aging tailor recalls a dark conflict between the village’s pastor and his young charges. With a brutal brilliance that’ll stay with you long after the credits roll, The White Ribbon is Haneke at the peak of his genius skill.
One-Armed Swordsman (1967)
If you do end up watching The Righteous and The White Ribbon back-to-back, maybe you actually need to sit down for a triple-bill, because we don’t feel right making you endure that ultra-bleak experience. So, to ensure you don’t embark on a revenge mission against us for putting you through that, we’re going to suggest you stick on the raucous rampage of revenge we like to call One-Armed Swordsman.
Pure entertainment from start to glorious (and sudden) finish, the story follows Fang Kang, an impoverished son of a brilliant swordsman, who’s taken in by an elite school following his father’s death. After his fellow students reject and brutalise him, cutting off one of his limbs in the process, Kang is forced to relearn his fighting skills in order to take his vengeance.
More vicious (and bloodier) than previous Shaw Brothers flicks, One-Armed Swordsman is a turning point for the genre, heavily influencing their (and other martial arts studios) ‘70s output, So, it’s an extremely important film, as well as being a supremely entertaining one.