Vengeance Is Mine, All Others Pay Cash

Reviewed by Roger Gook

The film shown at the Keswick Film Club last Sunday was an Indonesian film titled "Vengeance is Mine: All Others Pay Cash". From this, you might expect an eighties Kungfu film and you would be half right. It certainly has old - fashioned fighting action, but at its heart is a gentle romance.

The hero, Ajo, has a problem – impotence caused by a childhood trauma. This is difficult to live with in the macho culture that surrounds him, and he deals with his frustration by being a local hitman. Any dispute is solved by killing someone, giving a satirical nod to the old genre low budget action films, and a sly critique of toxic masculinity.

This film was a hugely entertaining and surprisingly ingenious work that offers much more than the usual cheap thrills that might be expected. Underpinning the narrative was the frustrated, complicated relationship between Iteung and Ajo which was left hanging at the end as he arrives home from prison ready to make amends, just as she was taken away for killing the two men who had caused Ajo's impotence.

The film had a raw energy due to some strange diversions from the story and a rather wandering narrative. The Indonesian background seemed fresh and unglamourised and the two leads were unknown actors who were very effective at portraying the everyday aspects of the story.

So, an unexpected tragic romance, but then the original Indonesian title more truthfully translates as "Like Revenge, Longing Must Be Paid In Full".