Justice Served (2017)

In a world where being a good person is suspicious and being punished, a man is on trial for pushing a little girl. Was he trying to kill her or save her?

In this short film by writer/director Patrick Rea, the concept of good versus evil is explored but from the opposite side of what films usually show these kinds of stories from. The writing for Justice Served has a dark sense of humor and wit, one that horror fans in particular should appreciate. It’s twisted and a bit wrong, but at the same time it’s oh-so-right. The way the story develops, the subject and how it’s approached is not 100% clear, leaving the viewer to figure things out for themselves until things start to make sense more and more as characters and testimonies are added. The story is built this way, through layers being peeled back and letting the viewer see more and more, getting deeper into this courtroom and world seemingly normal at first.

The cast here play their parts well, keeping big portions of their characters close to the vest, revealing layers little by little, letting the viewer guess at things until the very end. This creates an ensemble that is fun to watch and follow as their court case takes its time and the resolution puts everything into new light. Playing the accused, Nathan, is actor Davis Lee DeRock Jr. who shows a restrain and a knack for giving his character just the right emotions in the right nuances. In his scenes, he is the grounding performance. Playing alongside him as his defense counsel is Elisa James who shows that she can create a character that is multi-faceted and secretive at times. Her performance counter-balances that of her aforementioned colleague. Other interesting performances are Jason Curtis Miller as Mr. Wrenson and Jennifer Seward-DeRock as Andrea, both give good supporting, nuanced performances. The cast’s talent is put to good use and in turn they make the most of good writing and direction.

Giving a light assist to the acting are the special effects and visual effects which are fairly minimal here, giving the story and characters the spotlight with a few effect elements here and there that are well done and just present enough to enhance what is already seen on screen and what is happening to the characters. Some of it is truly subtle and requires some attention to notice.

All of this is shot with purpose by cinematographer Hanuman Brown-Eagle who gives each setting its own feel. For example, the courtroom feels oppressive, dark, with the camera closing in on the characters taking the stand and each one speaking, except for ones who are purposefully being kept in the dark. This gives the proceeding and accusatory tone that works well with the story and its tone.

Justice Served is a witty take on good versus evil and on how the world sees events and people based on a pre-established system of values. It may be a statement on the current state of the world and how each person views things and even through their own lens influenced by upbringing, values, and beliefs, and how they judge things accordingly. It’s a well-crafted short with a dark humor and wit to it making its spin on the judicial system fun to watch.