B.J. Novak’s Vengeance: Plot, Cast, and Everything Else We Know

B.J. Novak is making his film directorial debut with the new black comedy Vengeance from Focus Features. Not only did he direct the film, he also wrote it and stars as Ben Manalowitz, a journalist trying to get the root of a casual acquaintance’s death. Vengeance isn’t Novak’s writing debut, though it is his first time directing a feature film he wrote.

Focus Features is distributing the film, while Blumhouse Productions and Divide/Conquer produced it. The executive producers include Novak, Leigh Kilton-Smith, and Christopher H. Warner (Five Feet Apart, The Black Phone) with producers Jason Blum (They/Them, Firestarter), Adam Hendricks (Mercy Black, Black Christmas), and Greg Gilreath (Mercy Black, Black Christmas). Nicholas Kraft (The Premise), Jon Romano (Five Feet Apart, The Black Phone), with Jennifer Scudder Trent (The Hunt, The Black Phone) co-produced and Zac Locke (Mercy Black, Black Christmas) as associate producers. Many have worked on the same projects together previously.


Vengeance is coming soon and is poised to be the perfect dark comedy for the summer. Order your Whataburger and settle in as we head to Texas to talk about Vengeance.

Vengeance: The Plot

Focus Features

Ben Manalowitz is off to Texas for a funeral for an Abilene. Did he really know the person? He says they were casually seeing each other, but her family (and maybe even the girl herself) thought it was more serious. She’s reported to have died of an opioid overdose, but her brother Ty (Boyd Holbrook) is convinced she’s been murdered and wants Ben’s help to find who killed his sister.

Ben is also a podcaster, and he decides to take the story to his listeners. Not in a “help me solve this murder” kind of way, but in a “look at the conspiracies that come out of small towns” way. His production partner or manager, played by Issa Rae, is on board, helping produce the show from New York.

But, over time, it looks like Ben begins to agree with Ty. Maybe Abilene’s death isn’t as cut and dry as he thought. He continues to uncover information, and it looks like nothing is what it seems in Texas. As Ben interacts with the family and members of the community, he learns more about life in their town, the people in it, and (hopefully) what actually happened to Abilene.

The trailer is sure to mention other conspiracy theories the locals believe in, like the deep state. As a black comedy, will the film have commentary on how these types of theories can spread like wildfire, especially in small communities? Will it discuss the impact it has? Or will these theories lead Ben to the truth of Abilene’s death?

Vengeance: The Cast

Focus Features

B.J. Novak stars as Ben. Novak is known for The Office and The Mindy Project and has written for both previously. Boyd Holbrook (The Sandman, The Host) portrays Ty Shaw. Dove Cameron (Good Mourning, Schmigadoon!) is part of the project, though her character name is shared as both Kansas City and Jasmine. Though we aren’t sure of her character’s name, we are sure that she only consumes coffee using her mouth.

Joining them are Ashton Kutcher (That 70’s Show, The Ranch) in a role that requires him to wear an all-white, red rose embroidered suit, Issa Rae (The Lovebirds, Insecure) as one of Ben’s work associates, and Isabella Amara (Spider-Man: Homecoming, Euphoria) as Paris. The IMDb page also lists Lio Tipton (Warm Bodies, Crazy, Stupid, Love), J. Smith-Cameron (Succession, Turtles All the Way Down), Zach Villa (American Horror Story), Sarah Minnich (Better Call Saul)​​​​​​​, Grayson Berry​​​​​​​, and Ben Whitehair as involved with the film.

Release Date

Vengeance is set to hit theaters on July 29, 2022.

Everything Else We Know

Focus Features

The Hollywood Reporter reported that the film began production in March 2020 in Albuquerque, New Mexico, only to shut down shortly after starting due to the COVID-19 pandemic. At the time, the project was only about two weeks into production, so it was shutting down pretty soon after it started. Vengeance resumed production in January 2021, according to Deadline.

IndieWire reports that the film is meant to be a satire of the country’s obsession with true crime. That certainly comes across in the interactions between Ben and Ty. While Ty seems more on the obsessed side of trying to figure out what happened to his sister, it takes a second for Ben to hit that same point of no return. In an interview with Variety, he discusses the initial question that led him to write the film.

What if you were expected to avenge the death of a someone you barely knew?

It’s an interesting question. So many people latch on to true crime cases despite not knowing the victim on a personal level. In Ben’s case, he did actually interact with Abilene in an intimate way several times, so even though he feels he barely knows her, he’s more connected than the masses that try to investigate mysteries and unsolved crimes. It should be compelling to watch the story play out on screen.

While you wait, find our Texas Tech gear and watch the latest true crime docuseries, so you are ready to theorize and investigate come July.