VOD Releases: Justice Served (2017) - Reviewed

In the wake of Pulp Fiction, 90's American cinema was overrun with movies trying to emulate the film’s nonlinear framework and intricate pantheon of criminal mythology. Marvin Young's debut feature, Justice Served is a low budget thriller that capitalizes on the genre's absurdities through the use of a strong ensemble and a mayhem filled script that showcases Young's directorial potential. 

Three strangers whose loved ones were murdered all experience the fallacies of the legal system when each of the alleged killers in their respective cases are acquitted based on technicalities. Each survivor and suspected killer is abducted by a mysterious group and forced to conduct a retrial in which they have the power of life and death over the accused. Young's script has a sense of fluid nonchalance that takes its time getting to the marrow. The story begins as a commentary on vigilantism and its place in the shadow of the legal system, however, as the relationships between the characters evolve, the plot pivots into an exploration of vendetta that dovetails with the overarching themes of justice and punishment. The twist (and there are many) is that casual criminality and the myth of honor of thieves become essential to the liberation of the victimized. Young's world is filled with devious parolees and deceptive lawyers who dance around the idealization of legendary assassins with drugs, booze, and bullets never fully understanding the price of their actions until it’s staring them in the face. 

The players are introduced by way of Chase Coleman's Luke, the gentle every man grieving his wife's murder. NYPD Blue's Gail O'Grady has a supporting role as Luke's intriguing therapist while Young himself stars as Troy, an unscrupulous hustler and one of the accused. Horror legend Lance Henriksen has a vicious turn as an accused child murderer forced to defend himself to the victim's mother. Jay Giannone is the standout as a lifetime criminal who may or may not have killed Luke's wife. His verbal sparring with Coleman contains some of the film's best dialogue while Giannonne's breezy understanding of the streets highlights the two worlds of the film perfectly: The ideal world where control is an illusion and the gutter of society where a hierarchy of killers can dictate life and death with impunity, all which plays out through a series of mysteries that will keep you guessing well into the final act. 

Aside from the general fun of the plot, Justice Served also has several important qualities behind the camera that bear mentioning. The film was produced via a program through Arizona State University that gave film students an opportunity to work on a professionally created film, with interns comprising large amounts of the crew. Marvin Young, better known by his stage name Young MC, became interested in filming Justice Served in Tempe, Arizona after meeting the program's director at the Phoenix Film Festival. Filming lasted 18 days and used Hollywood grade equipment. The end result is a labor of love that is representative of not only the hard work of Young and his crew, but an example of the importance of film related educational programs that embrace the essence of the craft. 

Coming soon to DVD and digital release, Justice Served is a surprisingly fun crime story that never takes itself seriously and yet manages to find the pulse that so many other films of its nature have missed over the decades.

Share the justice.

-Kyle Jonathan