The 90-minute thriller is an all-too-rare species in the modern movie ecosystem, but the excellent Hell Hath No Fury, a 2021 release new to Hulu this week, is an antidote in this era of three-hour superhero epics.
Set at the end of World War II, Hell Hath No Fury follows Marie DuJardin (Nina Bergman), a French woman who has had her head shaved to mark her as an accused Nazi collaborator. She’s rescued (or captured, depending on your point of view) by a group of American soldiers, who demand she reveal the location of a secret stash of Nazi gold. They aren’t the only ones seeking the gold: Members of the French resistance and a battalion of Nazi soldiers on their way out of France are also on the hunt.
What follows is a gripping, tense thriller set almost entirely in a cemetery, with a palpable air of uncertainty throwing everything you think you know about the characters and the situation into question. Director Jesse V. Johnson, a former stuntman best known for his collaborations with DTV action legend Scott Adkins (Avengement, although my favorite is The Debt Collector), delivers one of his very finest films, keeping viewers on the edge of their seat for the entirety of its 94-minute runtime.
According to this excellent interview with JVJ by Matthew Essary, the film was financed after Johnson got in contact with a financier who had an unconventional request.
“He really, really wanted a World War II Jeep and wanted to be able to write it off as part of the production cost,” Johnson told Essary. “And so I said, ‘I think I have the perfect film.’ And we snuck in sideways that way.”
Another fun tidbit from that interview: JVJ did one of the stunts from the climactic sequence of the film himself.
The cemetery location is a brilliant piece of low-budget filmmaking, not only simplifying the shooting process, but building atmosphere and an internal geography for the audience ahead of the climactic final set-piece. Death looms over the movie at all times and from all corners, layering a haunting, mournful energy on top of the nonstop tension. The decision to keep the film mainly located in one setting also allows viewers to subconsciously understand the layout of the area where the climax takes place, making a chaotic final sequence far more legible than it would have been in an unfamiliar setting.
Bergman and the rest of the cast, filled with JVJ regulars, are all terrific in nuanced roles where their true motivations are never clear. Daniel Bernhardt (Atomic Blonde, Nobody) brings an uncanny combination of menace and charm in one of the richest roles he’s had the opportunity to play, as the villainous Nazi officer Von Bruckner. JVJ regulars Louis Mandylor and Dominique Vandenberg add their particular brands of rough charm to fill out an excellent ensemble cast.
But Bergman shines the brightest, nailing a layered and complicated lead role as Marie. A Danish singer-songwriter, Bergman previously collaborated with JVJ on a Wonder Woman fan short. She has the most to do out of all the cast members, playing a character who has the most screen time, yet whose motives are least clear to the audience. While Bergman’s Marie is constantly in danger and masking an at-first-unnamed source of trauma, she’s never helpless, hardened by her experiences and the cruel world around her.
A brutal and bleak movie, Hell Hath No Fury delivers a mean, hard-hitting punch in a 90-minute package. Ultimately, there are no heroes in this story, only survivors.
Hell Hath No Fury is available to watch on Hulu.