Skip to main content

The Office star B.J. Novak on how Vengeance is more than just a crime thriller

Stop me if you’ve heard this before: a dead girl, a grieving family, an outsider looking to solve a mystery in a place hostile to him and the truth. Vengeance doesn’t break new ground in its opening 10 minutes, yet what starts as a conventional murder mystery becomes something deeper and more surprising: a culture clash comedy that possesses a stinging critique of the very genres it’s working in.

In an interview with Digital Trends, writer/director/star B.J. Novak, best known to audiences as Ryan the intern from the long-running NBC series The Office, talks about the appeal of the mystery genre and how the film both adheres to and breaks conventions of the popular genre.

Digital Trends: What compelled you to work in the mystery genre?

B.J. Novak: Vengeance started as a comedy with a deadpan concept that both bothered me and intrigued me: what if you got a call to not only mourn but avenge the death of someone that you really thought was just a casual person in your life?

Two men stand in a desert in Vengeance.

As I thought more and more about it, the story morphed into someone who is pulled out of their comfortable life. The protagonist should be pulled into a different world and a different type of movie: a mystery. And so it sort of developed from there. I never wanted to lose the DNA of making a realistic comedy about the present. But I did think the other world he goes to (Texas) should be a genuine, realistic place.

I think that’s why I called it Vengeance because it’s a movie about vengeance, but it’s also a vengeance movie. A plain old vengeance movie.

To me, when I watched it, especially at the end, it was more than just a simple mystery movie. It developed into a critique of the true crime genre and media consumption. Was that your intent when you wrote it or did you just sort of find it as you were shooting?

The ideas I had came out somewhat subconsciously because they all filtered into the characters. I knew that Ashton Kutcher’s character had a lot of theories and insights into the nature of recording and the culture today and memory.

VENGEANCE - "This Is A Story" Official Clip - Only in Theaters July 29

I knew my character would be very intrigued and troubled by that. I think wrestling with that in a western mystery was a way to explore that. I didn’t go in with any answers, though, and I’m not sure I came out with any answers, but it is something I wanted to explore.

What do you want viewers to take away from Vengeance after they’ve watched it?

I would love people to come away with the message that people are surprising and complex and we can surprise ourselves.

Vengeance is currently playing in theaters nationwide.

Editors' Recommendations

Jason Struss
Section Editor, Entertainment
Jason is a writer, editor, and pop culture enthusiast whose love for cinema, television, and cheap comic books has led him to…
The 10 best characters in Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse, ranked
The poster for Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse.

Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse has taken audiences on an animated roller coaster across the Multiverse with its colorful cast of characters. This sequel film took things to a whole new level by introducing hundreds of Spider-People from different dimensions and putting them all together for one mind-blowing superhero extravaganza.

Out of all the bizarre, quirky, and relatable figures that appear, these 10 have launched themselves to the top of the list of the best characters in the entire film.
10. Jefferson Davis

Read more
Where to watch Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse
The alternate versions of Spider-Man from Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse

The time has finally arrived. The long-awaited Marvel Comics sequel Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse has finally hit theaters, and if early reactions are any indication, the movie is just as awe-inspiring and great as its predecessor. After a five-year absence, Miles Morales, Brooklyn's own web-slinging hero, is back on the big screen, and he brought with him Spider-Gwen, Peter Parker, and an army of new Spider-Men and Spider-Women, including Spider-Man 2099, Jessica Drew, Spider-Byte and Ben Reilly.

Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse came out in December 2018, so it's been a while since most fans have seen it. With Across the Spider-Verse now on everyone's mind, there's sure to be some desire to go back and watch that animated classic. But where can you watch it? Digital Trends has the answers for you.
Where to watch Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse (2018)

Read more
Nuggets vs Heat Game 2: How to watch the NBA Finals for free
The Verizon Center, empty but ready for a basketball game.

The Nuggets came out strong in game one of the 2023 NBA Finals. In a decisive if not easy win over the Heat on Thursday, the Nuggets got the first Finals notch on their belt. Will this series be a repeat of the NBA Western Conference Finals, another sweep for the Nuggets?

Game 2 of the NBA Finals is tonight, June 4, at 8:00 p.m. ET. It will be broadcast on ABC, as will the rest of the series. Several of the best live TV streaming services have ABC. If you time your subscription right, you can even get the first few games for free by way of a free trial. These are your best options.
Watch the NBA Finals live stream on FuboTV

Read more