‘Don’t know why they want to persecute me because I don’t talk to women…’
The phrase ‘rape-revenge’ probably doesn’t have people running to book cinema tickets. Over the years, this particular subgenre has served up some nasty pieces of work – most notably I Spit on Your Grave and The Last House on the Left. In recent years, the genre has had a surprising mini-revival through such works as Promising Young Woman and Paul Verhoeven’s Elle. Both of those films share more than a few strands of DNA with Abel Ferrara’s Ms. 45…
After being sexually assaulted twice in one day, mute seamstress Thana (Zoe Lund) becomes a violent vigilante, scouring the streets for the creeps of New York and dispatching them with a .45 calibre revolver.
Filmed on location, Ms. 45 explores the grim and grimy streets of New York at the start of the ’80s. Indeed, my only criticism of this movie is that every single character is a scumbag. Ferrara’s take on NYC is a city totally lacking in moral fibre. This gives the murders a triumphant hue, particularly in light of the brutal rape scenes early in the film. Lund is a revelation as the titular protagonist. Despite staying silent for the majority of the film, she conveys more with a knowing glance or a spiteful glare than most actors could with a two-page monologue. Her iconic nun outfit for the final scene has slipped into the pop culture canon – it was recently referenced in Euphoria – and this, coupled with the emphasis being firmly on the ‘revenge’ rather than the ‘rape’ ensures that this is one of the only films in this particularly subgenre that is actually enjoyable to sit through.
Ms. 45 is rough and ready but it’s also obvious why it has become a cult classic. Gripping and insistent cinema.