JOHN DOE: VIGILANTE | DVD REVIEW

JOHN DOE: VIGILANTE is an Australian action thriller starring Englishman Jamie Bamber, best known from BATTLESTAR GALACTICA. It embraces the B-Grade and is released from Australian DVD distributor MONSTER PICTURES, it had a very limited release around the country in cinemas in October but is now yours to own. Kernel John, the Salty master of B-Grade, brings us this fine review. JOHN DOE: VIGILANTE is out now, you can buy it here or rent it from all reputable sellers, it runs for 93mins and is rated MA15+. Enjoy John’s review……all the best…..JK. 

 

JOHN DOE: VIGILANTE MOVIE IMAGE
JOHN DOE: VIGILANTE | SALTY POPCORN MOVIE REVIEWS | AUSTRALIAN DVD COVER

 

REVIEW BY JOHN MCPARLAND

In a less civilised age, the concept of “an eye for an eye” dictated most judicial proceedings. As times moved on, lawyers got their hands on the term and defined it via the Latin lex talionis, literally “the law of retaliation.” As society evolved, lex talionis came to be less literal, and instead referred to the monetary restitution received by a victim for a crime committed against them, such as an arsonist being made to pay damages for burning down a home, rather than simply burning down the home of the firebug. However, sometimes an individual takes it upon his- or her- self to mete out their own form of “justice,” placing themselves above the law, and acting on their own judgements. These misguided few are known as vigilantes.

Director Kelly Dolen presents JOHN DOE: VIGILANTE, a tale of one man’s quest to brutalise his way into the history books as Australia’s most prolific serial killer. Presented in an interview/ documentary style, the film enters with Jamie Bamber’s (BATTLESTAR GALACTICA television series) Doe in chains on the eve of his sentencing hearing for the murder of 33 people. Doe agrees to grant an exclusive interview to veteran television journalist Ken Rutherford, played by Lachy Hulme (ANY QUESTIONS FOR BEN?), supposedly to answer all the questions that the populace wishes to know. Meanwhile out in the streets, Doe’s actions have divided public opinion; some see him as a paragon of righteousness, others as a heinous criminal.

Prior to his arrest, Doe had growing support in the form of a group calling themselves “Speak for the Dead,” in homage to Doe’s claim that his lethal actions are borne of the desire to give the dead a voice against their killers. Doe’s antics infer that he believes those victims, if they could speak, would scream for brutal vengeance, above all else. Why he instantly assumes that that is what they would desire is not initially revealed, but becomes more apparent as the film drags on.

 

JOHN DOE: VIGILANTE MOVIE IMAGE
JOHN DOE: VIGILANTE | SALTY POPCORN MOVIE REVIEWS | JOHN DOE (JAMIE BAMBER)

 

And drag it does. Doe sits in his cell giving his interview woodenly and emotionless, for the most part. The occasional “flashback” courtesy of the recorded murders Doe sent to several media outlets, offers too few moments of genuine displays of emotion from Doe. During the course of his “documentary,” Rutherford also interviews case investigators, individual police officers, lawyers, psychiatrists, Speak for the Dead members, and other media officials. All of these “experts” in their field are so terribly fake in their acting and character portrayal that it was cringe-worthy to watch. The consensus seems to be that Doe is not crazy, simply a man fed up with a judicial system he believes to be faulty, whom we should all praise for taking out the trash. Except for the media moguls. They of course are painted as ratings grabbing sleazebags, who were only interested in televising the slaughter of their fellow man for the chance at a bigger slice of the advertising pie. This is further enforced when it is revealed that the larger news stations were heavily editing Doe’s submitted footage so as to paint him in a darker, more fearful light, with the goal of instilling fear in the populace, again to improve their ratings. For me, this media manipulation tangent was one of the worst aspects of the film. Not that I do not believe some media agencies occasionally play fast and loose with the truth, more that this film felt the need to show the news falsely portraying Doe as evil. He is a wanted mass murderer, literally executing people in the street; that already screams “evil” in my books. Instead, we are made to demonise the media for their tinkering ways for making Doe out to look more evil than he actually is. In his attempt to surround Doe with “enemies” to make Doe out to be the hero of the piece, Dolen fills the film with nonsensical foes, both physically (the media) and ideologically (Doe’s rationalisation), that severely detract from the intended goal of supporting Doe. As the viewer, I spent far too much time trying to make sense of why the film’s bad guys (other than Doe’s victims) were the bad guys, to ever really get behind Doe’s actions.

 

JOHN DOE: VIGILANTE MOVIE IMAGE
JOHN DOE: VIGILANTE | SALTY POPCORN MOVIE REVIEWS | JOHN DOE (JAMIE BAMBER)

 

Speaking of rationalisation, Doe’s are just as stupid as nearly every other vigilante’s is. Waxing lyrical about how the justice system has failed us, how the punishment no longer fits the crime, how society will continue to suffer until people stand up for what they believe in, and so on and so on. At one stage, Doe even decries the fact that courts now censor victim impact statements to make them less influential, claiming that as proof that “the system” has lost its way. Personally, I do not believe victim impact statements should be allowed at all. Justice is blind; that is the very essence, the very core of the concept. Those dispensing it are tasked with weighing the evidence of the case and deciding on an appropriate punishment dispassionately and without bias. In well-publicised cases, entire trials are often moved to different states, so that the opinions of those within the jury pool will be untainted by what they might have heard or seen prior to commencement. Yet their opinions are allowed to be swayed emotionally from the facts through impact statements? That does not seem right at all.

Doe’s target selection methods are equally as questionable. His murders ascribe to a “code” he defines as affecting only those who are remorseless repeat offenders, regardless of whether they have served their time in prison or not, like some twisted version of DEXTER’s protagonist. After all, for someone who only kills based on his “code,” we all know that Dexter slices and dices primarily because he loves it. That is a philosophy I can get behind: crazy dude likes doing crazy things, makes sense to me. However, when sane dude does crazy things because of some lofty moral reasoning, I rapidly lose any belief in the character. Bad things happen to good people everyday, the universe does not “owe you one” because of it. The notion that because a terrible act has shaken your life, you are now justified in committing terrible acts on others, even if those others are perpetrators themselves, is idiotic in the extreme. Who is to say that the angelic child of the devil you kill does not become so filled with rage at the death of their parent that they then embark on their own “justified” rampage of chaos and murder. That it is only the “evil ones” that lie butchered in the street is irrelevant; who are you to judge anyone’s right to die? When does the cycle stop?

 

JOHN DOE: VIGILANTE MOVIE IMAGE
JOHN DOE: VIGILANTE | SALTY POPCORN MOVIE REVIEWS | JOHN DOES

 

JOHN DOE: VIGILANTE is a poor man’s LAW ABIDING CITIZEN. The film tries so hard to be political and intelligent, that it stumbles upon its own ideologies. Taking in aspects of justice, revenge and media manipulation, the movie attempts to distil this all down into a poorly reasoned, acted and strung together documentary style critique on society’s inadequacies, where the good guys are portrayed as bad, the bad guys are portrayed as good, but everyone just comes across as a jerk. For a movie that was meant to be about Doe’s trial and his specific tale, a final twist before the curtain completely negated the films objectives, reducing Doe to just another pawn in a larger game of hatred, instead of showing him as the martyr of justice it was building up to be. Check this one out to show your support of Australian cinema, but only when you have nothing else better to do.

 

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