It's always exciting whenever an artist steps out of their comfort zone in an attempt to pursue or seek out new entertainment creation venues and art-forms; certainly not uncommon either. Whether it's a multi-talented artist like Jennifer Lopez tackling a career as both a dancer/singer and actress (who didn't love 2002's Enough), or a sports phenom like Michael Jordan lacing up alongside Bugs Bunny to save the universe in Space Jam, these cross-overs provide fans fresh new takes and perspectives on the same formulas used in a specific form of entertainment; sometimes it works out, sometimes it doesn't. Thankfully, in the case of Marvin Young's directorial debut feature Justice Served, the results are closer to the former than they are the later.
Here we have a twisty-turny kind of story themed around the concept of justice and revenge; the short of it:
Three individuals whose loved ones were victims of crimes are about to get the chance to re-litigate the crime in a private setting, under the auspices of "Justice", a mysterious voice acting as judge, jury, and executioner.
While Justice Served won't win awards for originality, it takes a proven - often-used - horror concept and tries to really mix things up in the form of layered narrative. While most films attempting the "meet-your-killer" revenge setup typically keep things surface level, meaning, you'll probably get some vindictive-fueled torture and perhaps a plot twist along the lines of, "oops, they actually had the key to the room where the real killer was being held and you'd have known that had you not let your rage consume you and cloud your judgement", Young's thrilling revenge drama shows a lot more restraint and eschews shock value for character building that ultimately pays dividends when all the plot line threads begin to unravel; by the time the credits roll, you'll have uttered, "oh shit" at least three times.
For a first time directorial outing Marvin Young does a well enough job, especially given the film's budget, and especially given how many moving parts there are to the story, but it's still very obvious there is a lot of room to grow. After all, you can't expect to enter the ground floor and deliver an Evil Dead 2 or Scanners right off the bat, gotta get the Crimewaves and Shivers out your system first; not that they, or Justice Served, are bad films mind you, just more-so proof you can grow as an artist. In the case of Young's film, the area most obviously in need of improving is in how the actors should be reacting to any given moment. The acting wasn't necessarily bad (in fact there were a couple of positive stand-outs, with a grumpy Lance Henriksen being a favorite), but it seemed to lack a bit of direction which resulted in scenes where characters weren't quite sure how to react or emote to lines, and each other, leading to unintentionally awkward or funny moments that should have hit hard. Otherwise, there was the usual niggles that come with having a low budget production (weak sound stage, cheap looking computer fx), but those are easily forgivable I feel, especially in a film that isn't relying on bombast and flash to deliver its story.
Justice Served is a great start to Marvin Young's hopefully continued career in film-making. It's tense, intriguing, sometimes funny and more than anything shows a lot of promise for any future endeavors. Hopefully the film and Young find success, as horror fans could only stand to benefit from having more talented artists contributing to the genre.
You can rent or buy the film today on Amazon's video service