- "Punish only he who has committed the crime."—Marcus Aurelius, Meditations
Frank Valera (Banderas) is an immensely successful lawyer with a reputation of having a silver tongue. One bad night, however, he returns home to find his wife and little daughter murdered in their car. Seeing his life crumble in front of his eyes, and upon finding out that the cops are completely in the dark with the case, Valera becomes a self-punishing alcoholic that finds solace as a tomato can in an illegal Mixed Martial Arts circuit. However, after getting in a street fight while trying a child prostitute, he falls through the window of a discount book store, where he fortuitously grabs Marcus Aurelius' Meditations to stop the bleeding of a wound. Valera then discovers the ancient philosophy of Stoicism, and resolves to become a killing machine and undergo a vow of silence until he discovers who killed his wife and daughter.
Not to be confused with the 1974 film Act of Vengeance.
Tropes in Acts of Vengeance include:
- Artistic License History: Valera's narration claims that ancient Stoics took vows of silence to focus on tasks. In reality, while Stoics did value working hard and avoiding idle words, they weren't known for the extreme kind of vow Valera does in the film. Vows of silence were instead done by the Pythagoreans, another philosophical school that was popular in Rome before Stoicism became the hottest thing there.
- The Cameo: Valera's Karate sensei is played by director Florentine himself.
- Cultured Badass: Valera becomes one after getting into philosophy. During his Training Montage, we can see him studying not only the Meditations, but also Sun Tzu's The Art of War, Miyamoto Musashi's The Book of Five Rings, Inazo Nitobe's Book of Bushido, a modern book about Zeno of Citium's lost The Republic, and Herodotus' The Histories.
- Bond Villain Stupidity: In their final showdown, Strode manages to overpower Valera and stab him with a piece of scrap, but instead of cutting his neck right there, he opts to try to choke him out with his arms. Unsurprisingly, Valera throws Strode away and uses the scrap against him, defeating him for good.
- Shout-Out: The Russian mafia, the child prostitute and the protagonist quoting philosophy are likely references to The Equalizer, a similar 2014 film starring Denzel Washington.
- The Stoic: Valera becomes one, both in a literal and a figurative sense.
- Surprisingly Realistic Outcome:
- Valera is beating up dudes until one of them pulls out a gun, which means troubles for you not matter how good of an unarmed martial artist you are.
- During the final fight, Valera initially holds his own nicely, but being substantially older and much less experienced in real fighting than Strode, he ultimately fails to beat him.