It’s exciting to see Shyamalan on such confident footing once more, all these years later.
Claude Chabrol's "This Man Must Die" is advertised as a thriller, but that is the least of its accomplishments. It is a macabre, bizarre study of the hazards of revenge, and it thrills us not with chases or cliff-hangers (although the villain does indeed dangle momentarily from a cliff) but with the relationship between good and evil people.
That's sensible. Thrillers that conceal the villain's identity imply that his identity is the most important thing about him; Chabrol would rather introduce you to the killer and let you live with him for an hour or so before he checks out. In "This Man Must Die," a little boy is killed by a hit-and-run driver, and the boy's father sets out to find and kill the murderer. He speaks for Chabrol: "When I find him, I won't kill him right away. I'll get to know him, and savor my revenge."
Through some elementary detective work and a convenient coincidence, the father meets the killer's sister-in-law, an actress. He fakes a love affair with her to gain an introduction to her family, and then discovers that the villain is a truly reprehensible beast who is hated by everyone.
Then Chabrol gets sly. He refuses to let the movie unfold along the usual lines of revenge. He has his hero really fall in love with the sister-in-law. He has the villain's son, who hates his father, develop a tremendous respect for the hero. And gradually the shape of the revenge emerges: The hero will not merely kill the murderer, but strip him of his manhood, his family, his son.