Movie Review - Justice Served

Marvin Young is the writer-director here. Young is also known as Young MC, the second person to win the Grammy Award for Best Rap Performance for his hit song, "Bust a Move" (1989). Obviously, he's not the first hip hop artist or rapper to helm a feature film. Ice Cube already made the transition, but it's worth noting any time someone from that world crosses over. One could argue that a lot of ideas and themes inherent in hip hop music is present in this movie. Not feeling like the criminal justice system is on your side or feeling like you have to take the law into your own hands is definitely a theme one will find in rap music. Even the idea that violence is the solution to problems is present as well.

At one point early in the movie, it felt like Young was taking from James Wan's Saw (2004), minus the grime and the gore. Yet, this movie isn't a horror film. It's more a psychological thriller that has gangster film elements to it, which would also signal that a rapper wrote it.

The premise goes as such. Three pairs of people are all kidnapped and locked in three separate rooms. Each room is set up the same. A person who was on trial for murder but got off due to some technicality is strapped to an electric chair and behind a glass wall is the closest relative of the accused killer's victim. A mysterious female voice comes over the loudspeaker and says the relative is supposed to give the accused killer a second trial. At the end of a couple of days, the relatives are meant to deliver a verdict. Except, the kidnappers already faked the deaths of the accused killers, so the whole thing feels like it has a foregone conclusion.

If that's the case, the goal would seem to turn the relatives into murderers too or accomplices to murders. That isn't justice. It's vengeance, but at no point does anybody point out that hypocrisy unless Young's point is that all justice is just vengeance. Two of the three, closest relatives don't even struggle with the fact that they're put into this situation.

Chase Coleman (Boardwalk Empire and The Originals) stars as Luke Palmer, a husband whose wife was murdered. He's locked in a room with the man who was on trial for her death. He's the only relative of three kidnapped pairs who struggles and questions the situation. In fact, he's the only one who acts rationally. He even doubts that the accused killer is guilty. It makes Luke the only compelling character. It also helps that Coleman is an incredibly gorgeous guy.

What is overlooked is that, yes, technicalities can ruin criminal cases and double jeopardy can protect innocent people or shield the guilty. However, it's surprising that at no point did anyone mention one of the most famous murder cases in history. O. J. Simpson was acquitted in his murder trial. The family of his alleged victim didn't need to strap Simpson to a torture chair. The family sued him in civil court and won. He didn't go to jail for the murder but he did owe them a large sum of money.

This movie makes it seem like criminal court is the one and only avenue for justice. In reality, the court system is multi-layered. There's civil court. There's appeals court. There's the Supreme Court. Just because one loses or wins in one court doesn't mean that's the end. Young is either myopic in his view of the courts or doesn't care to acknowledge the other avenues.

Lance Henriksen (Aliens and Millennium) co-stars as Henry Callas, an accused killer of a child. He's locked in a room with that child's mother. Henriksen is an extraordinary actor who gives an amazing performance and probably the best performance of the cast.

Yet, when it comes to the cast, this movie does what little movies do. Anytime there's a villain who has henchmen, a gang of thugs to do the dirty work, those henchmen are often nameless and faceless muscle-heads. Nicely, Young doesn't make the henchmen here nameless or faceless. They're still muscle-heads. The king of which is David Horn who plays the lead henchman, Vernon, but Young gives us glimpses into what Vernon and his crew are thinking and feeling. It's just a shame we didn't get more. I'm curious as to how Vernon was hired to do this job. It's not like he could advertise being a kidnapper in the newspaper.

Not Rated but contains language and violence.
Running Time: 1 hr. and 42 mins.

Available on DVD and VOD on May 9th.


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