BERLIN -- Hard luck conspires with bad sex in this unspectacular Austrian tale of crime and punishment. The accidental death of his girlfriend spurs an ex-convict to seek, and find, revenge in a way he least expected or ever wanted. The film does not dig into archetypal motives of guilt or atonement but rather dangles the idea that humans can either be pawns of fate's random machinations or become active agents in a grander scheme of things.

With the rudiments of a crime thriller and the makings of a psychological suspense, the drawn-out unfolding of events encourages expectations of a smarter twist or more impressive ending. However, just like the slapdash, unerotic sex scenes that encapsulate the overall mood of unfulfilled hope and bad karma, the film ends on a subdued and rather flaccid note. It's a hard sell for the commercial market, but TV and festival outings are possible.

"Revanche" is set in Vienna and the small town of Gfohl in equal parts -- urban sleaze reminiscent of "Eastern Promises" comes face-to-face with provincial churchgoing country life. Alex (Johannes Krisch), the driver for the boss of a sex trade syndicate, has a secret love affair with one of his girls, Ukrainian Tamara (Irina Potapenko). Alex wants to rescue Tamara from rough customers, pay off her debts and chip into a restaurant business in Ibiza. They go back to Alex's grandfather Herr Hausner's hometown, where robbing the sleepy local bank would have been a breeze but for the chance intervention of policeman Robert (Andreas Lust), who accidentally causes Tamara's death.

Alex moves in with Hausner to lie low and ruminate on revenge. While Alex cannot endure the thought of Tamara's murderer carrying on life as usual, Robert complains about his bad luck of having been there in the first place and goes into gradual psychological decline. His wife, Susanne (Ursula Strauss) unwittingly becomes a link between the two men through her friendship with Hausner.

Like the film's first establishing shot of a lake whose smooth surface is suddenly disturbed by something falling in, the plot moves in small ripples, with its first serious turning point arriving 50 minutes into the film and the sexually charged twist occurring 23 minutes later. Cinematography of the countryside is crisp and clear as spring water, focusing on the pristine forest and serene lakes and capturing the brooding weather that foretells the gathering storm within the protagonists.

Prisma Film/Sperlmann Film/the Match Factory
Screenwriter-director: Gotz Spielmann
Producers: Mathias Forberg, Heinz Stussak, Sandra Bohle, Gotz Spielmann
Director of photography: Martin Gschlacht
Production designer: Maria Gruber
Music adviser: Walter W Cikan
Costume designer: Monika Buttinger
Editor: Karina Ressler
Alex: Johannes Krisch
Tamara: Irina Potapenko
Robert: Andreas Lust
Susanne: Ursula Strauss

Running time -- 122 minutes
No MPAA rating