True Justice Review
Just a forewarning: this is not a movie. This is actually the fourth release (episodes 7 and 8) from an ongoing TV series entitled True Justice. If you’ve never heard about it, then look up my reviews of the previous two instalments, Street Wars and Dark Vengeance, the first of which certainly offers a better introduction to the series and the characters. Those reviews also extensively deal with the fact that this product has been wholly marketed wrong, and that to release it under the episode name is totally inappropriate. But that’s familiar territory for this series.
Assuming anybody reading any further has either seen the previous episodes, or, at least, read part of those reviews, tonight we’re going to take a look at episodes 7 and 8, sub-named Lethal Justice Part 1 and Part 2, although a. they are not really two parts of the same story and b. Lethal Justice is a terrible, lazy, generic name, particularly for an episode of a TV show entitled True Justice.
Thus far we’ve been following tough unit commander Elijah Kane and his crack force of ‘special’ officers as they have dealt with Russian smugglers, serial killers and drug wars. The routine is fairly simple – Seagal’s Kane stomps around and kicks some criminal’s ass (whether or not this bit is relevant to the story is neither here nor there); he then dispatches his team to try and follow up leads and deal with the case themselves; halfway through (i.e. at the end of the first episode), we get a reasonable conclusion where Kane magically appears to save his team and gets to kick more ass. The second episode follows suit, sometimes having crossover characters and sub-story-arcs following on from the first (or, perhaps more importantly, building across the series as a whole).
Really, I make it sound bad, but there is plenty worse on TV at the moment, and True Justice has at least enabled waning (although certainly not literally) once-action-star Seagal to be involved in productions of a consistently acceptable standard, which is a blessing for all of his fans who have watched him slouch inelegantly in DTV hell for well over a decade (excepting an enjoyable cameo in Machete).
Lethal Justice, despite its terrible title, and despite the fact that the two separate episodes which have been spliced together (stop the ‘movie’ at the 45 minute mark if you want to separate them out) have very little in common, is probably the best release of the series so far – the best episodes.
The first chapter immediately introduces us to ‘the Brotherhood’, a group of armed white supremacists who are being led by a corrupt local sheriff, and who have plans to assassinated a local black politician so that they can put their own figurehead into power and get themselves more political clout. In order to put a stop to this group, Kane sends one of his own team undercover within the gang, and the guy promptly gets in way over his head – forced to smoke crack to maintain his cover. Meanwhile, another member on his team is still reeling after a rapist is released for lack of evidence – it would seem that none of his victims are willing to testify against him, and she is simply furious about it. Her anger, however, seems remarkably personal. Could there be something terrible in her past causing her to have a grudge against this particular criminal?
The second chapter has nothing to do with the Brotherhood (and it’s interesting to note that in the episode list, Brotherhood Part 1 & 2 are the titles of the next two episodes so it’s perfectly possible that they actually misnamed this entire release, but who knows, and who cares?!), but instead looks at a sniper who is on the loose taking out seemingly random victims from long range. The prime suspect is an Iraq vet who has some serious PTSD issues – but he’s also an old war buddy of Kane’s, so the team are told to stay clear of him. Is Kane covering up for his friend?
By far these are the most interesting episodes in the series to date – each one tells a complete story, jams a whole lot into a fairly brief runtime, and has enough action to keep you engaged during the already taut plotting. The character development across the episodes is also unprecedented: we get one team-member feeling the pressure, undercover and taking drugs; another team member who may have taken the law into her own hands because of a traumatic incident in her past; and the revelation of a potential romance between two of the team members as well. Throw into the new characters who are actually well-developed as well – particularly Kane’s old war friend buddy – and also some clues as to Kane’s own military past, and you have the best thought-out story in the series.
It certainly is evidence that this show has only evolved over time, that the actors have developed their roles, however limited, and that the whole bunch of them are dedicated to actually making this work. Sure, channels like HBO continually churn out dramas that are virtually perfect right from the get-go (Sopranos, Deadwood, Boardwalk Empire, The Wire etc. etc.), but there are plenty of shows which boast much smaller budgets (True Justice Season 1 cost less than one episode of Boardwalk Empire) and much less well-known actors, which are far less watchable than this glorified Seagal vehicle. It’s CSI: Miami-lite, which isn’t the greatest of compliments if you don’t like CSI: Miami, but since I find it quite a guilty pleasure – as with most of Seagal’s films – and I applaud Seagal’s determination to remain on our screens in spite of the decreasing quality of his projects, I find True Justice to be eminently watchable, lightweight, mid-week late-night viewing.
It may not have anything like the action we got from the Aikido master back in the nineties, but there are still hints of great moves – one scene will definitely remind fans of the great first dojo scene in his debut, Above the Law – and it may not have the quality of many other TV shows, but, certainly for Seagal fans, it’s a better way to enjoy his work than watching yet another abysmal DTV movie from him. Hell, even the final showdown with the sniper is reasonably well conceived even if the execution is flawed no doubt as a result of the relatively low budget.
The biggest trouble with the show is the way in which it has been marketed and released, but that’s easy to correct if the right information is provided.
What I would recommend – if you have any inclination towards watching this – is that you either a) wait for it to come out in a TV box set; b) try and catch it in the correct order on TV; or c) buy all of the home cinema releases so far and then watch them in the correct order yourself (which is not the order in which they were released):
1. True Justice: Deadly Crossing Part 1 & 2
2. True Justice: Dark Vengeance Part 1 & 2
3. True Justice: Street Wars Part 1 & 2
4. True Justice: Lethal Justice Part 1 & 2