Directed by: Gary Grillo
Starring: Gerald McRaney, Jack Lucarelli, Jameson Parker, Jeannie Wilson, and Wilford Brimley
Joe Case (Lucarelli) is a man from California who comes to visit a small
Arizona border community. As an out-of-towner, he witnesses violence,
corruption and murder at the hands of the local cops and sheriff. The
main antagonist is Jake Wheeler (McRaney), a belligerent racist who has
no problem dealing with the Mexican border-crossers...one way or
another. Sheriff Mitchell (Brimley) also has an uneasy relationship with
Wheeler, a loose cannon. Joe teams up with Dave Buchanon (Parker), one
of the good cops, in an attempt to right the situation and bring Jake to
justice. But will it be AMERICAN JUSTICE?
Plenty of movies in
the 80’s dealt with the subject of the U.S./Mexico border - even on this
site alone we have Border Cop (1979), Border Heat (1990) (AKA Deadly Stranger) and now American Justice.
THIS particular border movie isn’t really an action
movie per se, it’s more of a downbeat, serious drama with some
violence/thriller elements. The movie’s attempt at seriousness isn’t a
bad thing at all, but the storyline is simplistic, and not a lot happens
around it. The movie is almost airy, if that makes any sense. The odd,
slow pace isn’t conducive to anything cohesive that will stick in your
mind, and the movie becomes forgettable.
Except for a few
violent bits, it feels like a TV movie, which isn’t surprising, as
that’s the medium director Gary Grillo spent most of his career in. Add
to that the presences of McRaney and Parker, known for the show Simon
and Simon. Of course, McRaney is also known as “TV’s Major Dad” as well.
McRaney is well cast here and acquits himself well, and Wilford Brimley
is a bright spot, adding what meat he possibly can to his small role,
but there should have been MORE. More plot, more character development,
more action, more suspense, more
twists, more SOMETHING.
While the VHS in the U.S. was released
on one of our favorite labels, Lightning, the tagline used, “Justice
from the barrel of a gun”, is sadly not lived up to. It makes you think a
bigger, grander movie is forthcoming. Additionally, the box states the
running time at 79 minutes, but it’s really 92. Why they did this is
unknown. Did they think video store patrons might rent it because it’s
not a big drain on their time? If so, it may have backfired, as people
want to get as much for their money as they can, and they may have
thought a meager 79 minutes is not worth the investment of a video
rental. These are the things that keep you up at night. Or at least us.
While not a BAD movie by any means, American Justice isn’t a great one either. File this one under “missed opportunity”.
Comeuppance Review by: Brett and Ty