Vendetta Road Image

Vendetta Road

By Alan Ng | April 16, 2024

NOW ON TUBI! Add off-season campgrounds to the list of cool places to make a movie. Nathan Light’s Vendetta Road follows the tale of an assistant camp manager playing host to an armed stranger.

All Dakota (Maci Engle) wants to do is live a peaceful life out in the wilderness. Hunting deer and running a campground seems to be the perfect life. With all the cabins being full, Dakota deals with the typical crap…guests complaining about no wi-fi, selling toothbrushes, and general annoying complaining.

Tonight feels a bit different. As she monitors the deer cameras throughout the grounds, she spies a shadowy figure roaming around. Then, all of the cabins receive phone calls trying to get their credit card information.

Fortunately, Dakota has a police background and is quite competent with firearms. Using her surveillance skills, she’s able to follow the mysterious figure, Ivan (Christian Watkins), and the two play a subtle game of cat-and-mouse. Yet, there is more than meets the eye.

The first thing you’ll notice with Vendetta Road is its DIY production. It’s very low budget with a small crew and a big heart. The challenge of low-budget production is finding ways to make a little seem like a lot.

Writer/director Nathan Light makes the most of his environment. The cabins and office make great locations for drama, and the forest setting is perfect for action. When you have access to a location, the fun in this film is finding a way to tell a story with the natural resources that you have surrounding you.

“Fortunately, Dakota has a police background and is quite competent with firearms.”

The action itself is primarily gunplay—small pistols, hunting rifles, and a semi-automatic firearm with all of the gunfire added in post. Hand-to-hand combat rounds out the action.

As our lead protagonist, Maci Engle brings the right amount of sympathy and badassery to the role of Dakota—vulnerable yet deadly. We live the story walking in her shoes. Christian Watkins gives the right amount of mystery to Ivan…though his actions in the beginning don’t make sense until much later in the film. For example, why doesn’t he just shoot everyone if he’s as bad as we think he is?

The main criticism of Vendetta Road has to do with the low-budget nature of the production. Much of the cinematography consists of a locked-down camera in a single position. Quick edits make the action look good, but the lack of variety in shots wears over time. At points, you really want to have the camera move with the action. Variety is the key phrase here.

The other criticism is that the film can feel very dialogue-heavy with a lot of exposition. For a film that involves the “mafia,” all I got was that there was a mafia/militia man-hunt, but I couldn’t figure out why they existed…only that they were hunting for Ivan. By revealing the origin of this group, this can be incorporated into why they are hunting for Ivan and how they were hunting for Ivan. Here, it feels very bland. We’re hunting our lost soldier, and we’re mean.

For a small-budget film, Vendetta Road succeeds in feeling much bigger than it is. It’s Nathan Light’s first film, and his overall freshman effort is effective with flaws. Yeah, you’re not going to find a Guy Ritchie thriller here just yet. The next step is to learn from these flaws and evolve into the next feature. Well done.

Vendetta Road (2023)

Directed and Written: Nathan Light

Starring: Maci Engle, Christian Watkins, etc.

Movie score: 6.5/10

Vendetta Road Image

"…Maci Engle...vulnerable yet deadly."

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