As much as we laud law enforcement in movies (right up through this fall's "End of Watch"), the vigilante character in movies keeps returning in various forms. Even if the epitome of the vigilante was personified in the "Dirty Harry", "Death Wish", and "Walking Tall" franchises of the subversive 1970s, new vigilantes have recurred that aren't even a part of law enforcement, and usually existing because of the complexities of the crimes being fought against. In some cases, those vigilantes have been completely off the chain mentally or exasperated at culture in general.
More recently, the cinematic vigilante has been more of the everyman, if not even a hobo (with a shotgun), or a gravelly-voiced Clint Eastwood as a war vet (with a bigger shotgun). But when Luc Besson brought us the "Taken" franchise in 2008, it was a return to a character that had prior law enforcement credentials facing a crime that no one but he can solve. That end statement may still sound offensive to those who believe the law will always help people with every crime.
Movies have gone along for reality's ride where certain crimes committed begin to get mired in the protracted precedents of the law. With so many new laws set on what can and can't be done to go after someone committing a heinous crime, it's sometimes dumbfounding we don't see more vigilantes in real life. And perhaps they are out there, though just not as apparent as we see with Liam Neeson's Bryan Mills character.
The twist to "Taken 2" is that after Mills took matters into his own hands to rescue his daughter in "Taken", the relatives of the criminals he'd killed before enact revenge by kidnapping Mills and his wife. We now see a twist to the vigilante tale that what comes around, usually comes around multiple times in the world of a criminal underground. Although it's a bit of throwback to the "Death Wish" franchise where the crime plot of each sequel had a tangential relationship to the previous crime.
And going that route may bring a whole new long-running vigilante franchise where other offspring of the villain in "Taken 2" will continue to wreak havoc on the Mills family. Yet it also takes away from the idea of law enforcement being unable to gain access to the criminal underground because of the web of connections that may connect to the world of law. If we learned anything about law by Franz Kafka in his classic novel "The Trial", everyone is guilty and we seldom to ever see any satisfying conclusion to criminal cases.
Nothing could be truer than that today as we see every accused terrorist have to sit in prison for a couple of years before a trial and controversial sentencing. In the 21st century thought patterns of wanting quick results against those wanting to hurt us, the vigilante movie is open now for resurgences. With that comes Liam Neeson possibly capping his acting career by becoming a new Charles Bronson and doing "Death Wish"-like "Taken" sequels into his later years.
This shouldn't stop movies being made that show the cops as mentally sharp and capable of infiltrating the most complex of crimes, including drug cartels. If that kind of hero worship stops, the vigilante movie may turn into something different as it mimics real-life vigilante factions dotting and guarding the greater part of the United States.
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