Revanche defied both the odds and the standard formula in earning Austria a richly deserved Oscar nomination for best foreign film. Director Götz Spielmann's latest deals with crime, a subject typically seen as insufficiently important for such an honor. Moreover, the main characters — a rough-hewn ex-con (Johannes Krisch), a Ukrainian prostitute (Irina Potapenko), a small-town cop (Andreas Lust) and his wife (Ursula Strauss) — aren't freighted with symbolism. They stand only for themselves as fate and a bank robbery in which nothing can possibly go wrong (so of course it does) draw them into a shared orbit. These four wind up on a collision course, but rather than hurrying them toward impact, Spielmann allows the ingredients to steep and then simmer. It's a risky approach, but the patience he exhibits ratchets up the tension rather than causing it to dissipate. Even better, the conclusion, which seems to be on a steady march toward inevitability, manages to surprise without resorting to the sort of gimmickry found in the more typical fare usually honored by the Academy.
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