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Seeking 'Revenge'? Better to forget it

The reports of strange atmospheric disturbances in Mexico are true. They're recorded in Tony Scott's south-of-the-border music video Revenge, where the sky glows magenta in every protracted, sweeping vista.

The accounts of electrical shortages in Mexico are also true.

Everyone has mountains of paraffin inside their houses that emit an eerie glow amidst the gauze that billows in the desert heat.

With Revenge, it appears Scott has found a use for the candles, cotton and lighting gels he had left over from The Hunger, the stylish yet convoluted horror that marked his transition from TV commercials to commercial features.

Revenge, like The Hunger, moves slower than time. It spirals relentlessly along its predictable path of destruction as two men with more testosterone than they know what to do with fight over abeautiful woman.

That woman is Miryea (Madeleine Stowe) and she represents both Eve and the snake in husband Tiburon's (Anthony Quinn) garden of Eden.

Tiburon, or Tibey, is a wealthy Mexican who believes in etiquette.

He shoots his guests after supper rather than spoil the meal.

Tibey's most coveted guest is a former U.S. Navy pilot, Jay Cochran (Kevin Costner), who once saved Tibey's life during a hunting trip.

Jay knows a thing or two about honor, but not much about etiquette.

Etiquette Lesson No. 1: Never covet your host's wife in your host's house, especially when your host has just excused himself to shoot another guest.

Jay finds himself inexplicably drawn to Miryea who has the countenance of an iceberg. Perhaps he finds her attractive because she is the least offensive person he has encountered since crossing the border. Perhaps it is because she shares Jay's passion for Federico Garcia Lorca works, which Jay reads to her in Spanish while Tibey bids one of his dinner guests a permanent adieu.

Before you can recite Bodas de Sangre in its entirety, Jay and Miryea are hot in each other's clutches and planning a tryst at Jay's hideaway cabin deep in the scrub.

This does not please Tibey. Not only does he lose his wife, but his tennis doubles partner and hunting companion.

Etiquette Lesson No. 2: Never leave without saying goodbye, especially when your host considers poor manners a capital offense.

Tibey's revenge is swift and painful. He slashes Miryea's face with a switchblade, hooks her on junk and packs her off to a whorehouse where her former servants take particular glee in raping her. He beats Jay bloody, breaks his bones, shoots his dog, burns his house, throws him in a ditch and leaves him for dead.

But, as bad luck and Jim Harrison and Jeffrey Fiskin's script would have it, Jay survives to seek his revenge.

Revenge takes an interminable amount of time just for Miryea and Jay to connect, escape and be discovered by Tiburon, whose name in Spanish means shark.

It seems to take even longer for Jay and Miryea to be reunited and for Jay and Tibey to settle their score like Men of Honor.

Revenge, adapted from Harrison's novella, is the sickest of male bonding movies. It is about friendship and betrayal, and how men must uphold their dignity at the expense of all else. Particularly women.

An adulterous woman who violates this unwritten code of honor has no recourse but to die a horrible death. This is as sure a law in movies as gravity is a law in physics.

Scott, who accorded women the status of set dressing with breasts in Beverly Hills Cop II, Top Gun and The Hunger, accords Miryea an even lowlier status. She exists to corrupt and then be degraded as graphically as possible. Scott doesn't even bother to build empathy for her character.

Costner and Stowe never generate the heat that would make their affair seem even remotely possible. Their love scenes are thick with atmosphere - hanging fabrics, candlelight, a fireplace's glow - but practically devoid of passion.

Quinn has the requisite earthiness and malevolence but he, too, lacks conviction. Scott, who makes references in Revenge to Top Gun and The Hunger, gives Quinn the opportunity to dance a la Zorba the Greek. But the scene only accentuates the inferiority of this movie compared to Quinn's earlier roles.

Revenge is a marketing dream turned sour. Too violent to pass for a romance, too lethargically paced to be a thriller, too stylish for its own good, it exists in the netherworld of MTV-styled videos. Even worse, Costner's world-class derriere isn't exposed until it is the only part of his body that hasn't been bruised. Poor timing.

An added note: Revenge has a love-making scene in a moving jeep.

This has not been endorsed by the National Safety Council and should not be tried at home.

Etiquette Lesson No. 3 - Wear seat belts.


Cast: Kevin Costner, Anthony Quinn, Madeleine Stowe, Sally Kirkland Director: Tony Scott Screenplay: Jim Harrison and Jeffrey Fiskin Rating: R; violence, nudity, profanity Running time: 123 minutes