In the new thriller "Dead Man Down" (in theaters this Friday), Colin Farrell plays a man who plots revenge against the criminal (Terrence Howard) he blames for the death of his wife and daughter. As part of his densely plotted revenge scheme, he first puts his target through a war of nerves that leaves him waiting for the lethal blow.
While we can't approve of all the things Farrell's character does in the name of justice, we most certainly applaud his ingenuity.
To that end, here are some of the most complex movie revenge schemes of all time, the ones that involve far more cunning, planning, and preparation than simply showing up and massacring people. So as much as we loved "Kill Bill," "Gladiator," and "Cape Fear," you won't find them on this list. Any grand schemes we overlooked? Let us know in the comments.
1. ‘V for Vendetta’
In a futuristic, totalitarian England, an anonymous vigilante known only as "V" exacts revenge on those who ran a cruel detention camp where he and others were experimented on. He kills those responsible and sets in motion a series of events designed to bring down the cruel regime once and for all.
2. ‘The Count of Monte Cristo’
The ultimate tale of revenge (one that's aptly quoted by a vengeance-driven Brad Pitt in "Sleepers") still resonates centuries later. The 2002 version has all the key plot points: Edmond Dantes (Jim Caviezel)'s wrongful imprisonment, escape, and his reinvention as the Count, one who is now in a position to destroy those who ruined his life. The ending isn't the one Alexandre Dumas, wrote, however.
3. ‘Law Abiding Citizen’
When a CIA black ops agent (Gerard Butler)'s family is slain and the D.A. makes a deal with one of the killers, he not only gruesomely dispatches the murderers, but goes after anyone involved in the case. He then imprisons himself, but no one can figure how he seems to be able to keep killing from his jail cell.
4. ‘The Dark Knight Rises’
We still don't understand the overly complicated plot, in which the villain Bane (Tom Hardy) carries out a massive and complex revenge plan begun by Ra's Al Ghul designed to bring all of Gotham to its knees and bankrupt Bruce Wayne.
5.’ Lucky Number Slevin’
To recap the whole plot of this little-seen thriller would rob you of the fun of discovering all the twists, when a hit man (Bruce Willis) is hired by two decades-old gangster rivals (Morgan Freeman and Ben Kingsley). The vendetta also draws in Josh Hartnett, who has a few tricks of his own up his sleeve.
Years after they were abused by a sadistic guard (Kevin Bacon) in a boys' home, two of four victims murder him. Their friends are now an assistant district attorney (Brad Pitt) and a reporter (Jason Patric) who conspire to expose the other guards and botch the prosecution.
In his all-consuming quest to avenge his father's death, Hamlet feigns madness (or does he?), stages a play to trick the murderous Claudius into a public confession, and sends courtiers Rosencrantz and Guildenstern --- who were escorting him to his death -- to their execution -- and that's just a lead-up to the famously bloody ending.
8. ‘Side Effects’
Since this is still in theaters, we'll just say that there are two very elaborate revenge schemes at work in this story of a young woman (Rooney Mara) who blames the anti-depression drugs she was taking -- and the psychiatrist (Jude Law) who prescribed them -- when she murders her husband in an apparent fugue state.
9. ‘The Hand That Rocks the Cradle’
Revenge scenarios don't get much more dramatic and overwrought than this one in which an unhinged psycho goes undercover as a nanny for the woman she blames for putting her rapist husband in jail. Her schemes include turning the children against their own mother, framing the handyman who suspects her as a pedophile, and -- of course -- murder.
10. ‘Inglourious Basterds’ (Melanie Laurent's character)
Shosanna (Melanie Laurent) miraculously escaped being slaughtered at the hands of Nazi Hans Landa (Christoph Waltz), but when the chance for the revenge of a lifetime falls into her lap, she lays a deadly (and unforgettable) trap that will send her enemies out knowing exactly who it was that killed them.
11. ‘The Mask of Zorro’
When Don Diego da la Vega (Anthony Hopkins) is revealed to be the vigilante Zorro, the corrupt governor imprisons him and raises Zorro's daughter as his own. After De la Vega is freed, he grooms an unkempt thief (Antonio Banderas) to be the new Zorro and passes him off as visiting nobleman so he can play the role of unnoticed servant and gain access to his enemy's home.
12. ‘A Perfect Murder’
Is this remake of the Hitchcock classic "Dial M for Murder" better than the original? Hell no. But it does increase the complexity of the plot by having the betrayed husband (Michael Douglas) hire his wife (Gwyneth Paltrow)'s artistic but broke lover (Viggo Mortensen) to kill her instead of a random stranger. Now that's twisted.
13. ‘The Last of the Mohicans’
Villains don't come much more cold-hearted than Magua, the Huron chief who gets his revenge on British Colonel Munro, whom he blames for killing his wife. Magua succeeds in dispatching Munro, cutting out his heart and vovwing to kill both his daughters as well. He comes close by leading the British troops escorting the daughters into an ambush and... well, you should just watch this masterpiece for yourself.
Richard Basehart stars in this nifty film noir as a henpecked pharmacist who sets up a separate identity in another town so he can safely murder his cheating wife (Audrey Totter) and her lover and get away with it.
15. ‘The Girl WIth the Dragon Tattoo’
After being raped by her legal guardian who's threatened to send her to a mental institution if she doesn't comply, Lisbeth Salander (Noomi Rapace in the Swedish version, Rooney Mara in the U.S. remake) gets some satisfyingly painful vengeance: She tases him, ties him up, and tattoos "I'm a sadist pig and a rapist" on his torso. She also threatens to release the video of him raping her if he ever comes near her again.
16. ‘The Abominable Dr. Phibes’
In this '70s cult horror flick (some of which prefigures "Saw"), Vincent Price plays a disfigured genius who believes his wife was killed by incompetent doctors, then sets about killing them all with methods inspired by the Ten Plagues of the Bible.
17. ‘Ocean's 13’
Knocking over casinos was a breeze compared to ruining the reputation of one: Danny Ocean's gang steps in when his pal Reuben (Elliott Gould) is squeezed out of his partnership in a new hotel by Willy Bank (Al Pacino). The team sabotages everything, from the games to the crucial hotel inspection, making sure this Bank gets shut down.