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Justice (2017) Review

Justice is a 2017 Western about a U.S. Marshal seeking justice for his brother’s murder who defends a small town from a corrupt Mayor and his henchmen with intents to revive the civil war.

The Western genre is nothing without vengeance. It’s a theme that runs like a river through what seems like countless titles, with men of honor riding into dusty towns to set things right from the corrupt higher powers that be. So it is with Richard Gabai‘s Justice, a paint-by-numbers tale of one’s man’s hardened quest to avenge another, a film that might look good but is marred by a raft of has-been standards and platitudes that leave this a simple take on an old story.

Set after the Civil War, as the impact of the Emancipation Proclamation has yet to settle for some, a preacher in a small town is murdered and his church burned. It attracts a US Marshal named James McCord (Nathan Parsons), the priest’s brother, looking to learn what happened. He discovers the town is overwhelmingly corrupt, led by Mayor Pierce (Stephen Lang), who, along with his henchmen, including the ruthless but loyal Reb (John Lewis), has acquired an old abandoned mine and is fortifying it with arms in hopes of restarting the war. As James grows close with local teacher Melissa (Jamie-Lynn Sigler), tensions mount and James is forced to face off against Pierce and his band of racist gunfighters.

Built very loosely around racial injustice, with two obligatory moments where black men are verbally abused (one of them nearly whipped), the film is far more about ticking off boxes from every classic Western on the list, but doing so in the most generic way possible. The script, from four writers, is awash in a kind of dime store pocket novel language that is full of baser Western vernacular that rarely feels authentic, and combined with overly-ripe imagery of the genre tropes, makes this almost amusingly fun, except that the film is unrelentingly serious about what it preaches. And preaches it does. While I can’t be sure, it feels heavily faith-based, with Biblical quotes and good-versus-evil symbolism aplenty, including a death scene that extends the metaphor to absurd ends.

If you like cocking guns and steely-stares, Justice is loaded front to back with both as the story doles out one contrived moment after another, giving James excuse after excuse to whip out his pistol and yank back the hammer. It almost gets distracting, and seems proof that the filmmakers are more interested in cliché than character development or innovation. Parsons, while good looking in the attire, has very little charisma and Lang is all but a cartoon villain. The women are helpless and the only two black men in the story (on which much depends) are utterly wasted and given nearly no screen time. It’s a shame the film couldn’t have anything more interesting for them to do than be props because if there was potential in the movie do something great, it was right there.

Still, while I appreciate low-budget Indie films greatly and the good people who dedicate themselves to doing what they can with limitations, Justice is but a clean, inoffensive, unchallenging Western with too much forced sentiment, which is too bad given the talent and the premise. It has no joy or sense of adventure and misses opportunities to flesh itself out. While some genre fans may find something here to make this worthwhile, most will find Justice lacking.

Justice (2017) Review

Movie description: Justice is a 2017 Western about a U.S. Marshal seeking justice for his brother's murder who defends a small town from a corrupt Mayor and his henchmen with intents to revive the civil war.

Director(s): Richard Gabai

Actor(s): Stephen Lang, Jackson Rathbone, Jamie-Lynn Sigler

Genre: Western

  • Our Score
User Rating 2.75 (4 votes)
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