Not many people remember the short-lived TV series Vengeance Unlimited. It ran in 1998 to 1999 for one season and only had 16 episodes, having succumb to the overwhelming power of it’s rival for the time slot – Friends.
Michael Madsen plays the lead character, Mr. Chapel. You may know Madsen better from his tough guy roles in various films including his memorable character, “Mr. Blonde” in Quentin Tarantino’s Reservoir Dogs. He brings the same flavor of tough guy, slightly crazy acting to his role as the mysterious Mr. Chapel and his performance in the role is one of the highlights of the series.
The show’s premise is Mr. Chapel’s line of work – Vengeance. Much like the A-Team if you have a problem and need help you can hire Mr. Chapel to exact revenge on those who have wronged you. Dishing out his special brand of justice isn’t for free of course: clients either pay $1 million dollars or promise to do Mr. Chapel a favor in the future. The favor of course can be anytime, anywhere, doing whatever Mr. Chapel requires. Sometimes this favor borders on the illegal and unethical and sometimes it’s the mundane. One of the longstanding jokes of the series is when Mr. Chapel cashes in the favor and it’s been paid he tells them they’re off the hook and the former client response “thank God!”
Mr. Chapel is not alone however, KC Griffin (played by Kathleen York) is Mr. Chapel’s former client turned friend and cohort in the vengeance game. KC adds a balance to Mr. Chapel’s dark, black sense of humor. Plus, KC works in the DA’s office, which comes in handy for Mr. Chapel’s line of work.
The series premise is an interesting one, challenging what “justice” really means. Mr. Chapel’s actions blur the idea of right and wrong. Mr. Chapel’s cases are to bring vengeance to situations where the law and standard systems can’t bring justice. The series draws on similar concepts as the TV shows The Pretender and the Equalizer.
The show also has an outstanding character arch for it’s lead, revealing slowly Mr. Chapel’s past and his reasons for starting such a business in the first place. There’s a depth of intelligent writing, quotable lines and dark humor that characterizes Vengeance Unlimited.
From the melodramatic to the comic, music is an important story-telling device much like our beloved Whedon shows. One of my favorite scenes in Vengeance Unlimited is when Mr. Chapel steals back the money that a con man stole from a young couple. In the scene Mr. Chapel heads off to the deposit box and takes the money and the entire thing is set to the extremely jaunty Frank Sinatra version of “Call Me Irresponsible”, which Mr. Chapel dances to while in the bank.
All in all it’s a great, if short lived show. At the time of writing there’s no DVDs out for Vengeance Unlimited or no legal way to watch the show that I know of, but keep an eye out if you can find it.