The Office star B.J. Novak makes his writing/directing debut with Vengeance, a darkly comic noir about an aspiring New York podcast host (Novak) who finds himself in search of the perfect podcast story in West Texas.
Ben, the aspiring podcaster, ends up in West Texas after receiving a phone call one night from Ty (Boyd Holbrook). Ty is the brother of Abi, a woman Ben hooked up with but never had strong feelings for. Abi, on the other hand, had apparently been telling her family all about Ben. So when she dies of an opiate overdose, Ty talks Ben into coming to Texas for the funeral.
In West Texas, Ty tells Ben he thinks Abi was really murdered. He has no proof, just his gut feeling and he wants Ben to help him find vengeance. Ben sees an opportunity for a podcast about red state conspiracy theorists and how people cling to conspiracies as a way of avoiding life's mundane but painful truths.
There's a lot of fish-out-of-water comedy involving the New York journalist learning about West Texas culture. It thankfully avoids leaning too heavily into either painting the Texans as all idiotic yokels or Ben as a completely insufferable New York narcissist. Everyone's flawed here, but in recognizable human ways.
The whodunit aspect of the plot is not terribly difficult to figure out, but the identity of the perpetrator isn't what matters. When the film reached its climax, I was genuinely uncertain how it would resolve itself and that's a rare feeling in movies these days, most of which are very predictable.
It is worth keeping an eye on Novak as a writer/director.