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Revenge So Sweet

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Is your craving for vicarious vengeance frustrated by your belief that "good guys" shouldn't lower themselves to the level of "bad guys?" Well, good news! In each of these films, bad guys get what they really deserve--with justice delivered via the bloodstained hands of other outlaws! Finally--you can simultaneously enjoy AND condemn savage violence and revenge!

• El Mariachi (1993)--An itinerant musician hits town at the same time as a newly escaped felon. Violent hijinks ensue when the mariachi is mistaken for the criminal, who starts killing his way towards the mob boss who betrayed him. Filmed in Mexico, director Robert Rodriguez' debut is confident, stylish, and thoroughly engaging.

• I Went Down (1997)--This award-winning independent Irish film centers on two petty criminals who become indebted to and caught between rival crime lords. Sent cross-country to retrieve an errant associate, they discover they're being played for fools and used as pawns to settle old debts.

• The Limey (1999)--Newly paroled career criminal Terence Stamp leaves England for the hills of L.A. to avenge the murder of his estranged daughter. Haunted by memories and regrets of a life spent largely in prison, the coldness that doomed his daughter now leads the aging Stamp in his futile pursuit of redemption. Director Steven Soderburgh's liberties with the flow of time create a quiet, sunlit and dreamlike atmosphere.

• Payback (1998)--In a remake generally considered inferior to the original Point Blank (a nihilistic 1967 thriller starring Lee Marvin), Mel Gibson is still quite impressive as a hood who survives a doublecross and returns from near-death with single-minded and masochistic fixation on the money he's owed.

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