Do not repay anyone evil for evil, but take
thought for what is noble in the sight of all.
If it is possible, so far as it depends on you,
live peaceably with all. Beloved, never
avenge yourselves, but leave room for the
wrath of God; for it is written, “Vengeance is
mine, I will repay, says the Lord.”
Mel Gibson returns to the screen, his last role being an Episcopal priest grieving over the death of his wife in the 2002 film Signs. He is equally troubled in director Martin Campbell’s film, distilled from his six-hour long 1985 British miniseries of the same name. Of course, the locale has been transferred to America, to Boston where Gibson’s Tommy Craven is a veteran Boston police officer welcoming home his grown daughter Emma (Bojana Novakovic). During the drive home from the airport their closeness is established, with Gibson as the surviving parent concerned that she does not seem right. She reassures him that she is not pregnant, but in their kitchen while he is preparing supper, she develops a nosebleed, and then vomits into her plate. Alarmed, Tommy grabs their coats and heads for the door with her in tow, intending to head for a hospital. However, as they walk through the doorway, a man on their steps levels his shotgun and fires. Emma’s blood smeared body is hurled back into the foyer where Tommy helplessly watches her die.
After the horde of police and reporters leave, Tommy goes through Emma’s backpack and discovers a gun and a small Geiger counter. He was aware that she had been a scientist at a large laboratory operated by a large company called Northmoor, but she had not been free to reveal the details of its top security work for the government.
Tommy sets out thinking that he had been the intended target, but after visiting the CEO of Northmoor (Danny Huston) and several encounters with the sinister Darius Jedburgh (Ray Winstone), an agent who might be working for the British or the American intelligence authorities, he discovers that Emma was indeed the intended victim. She had become a whistle blower and part of an environmental group concerned that Northmoor’s development of weapons was being made available to foreign powers.
Conspiracy buffs will enjoy the film because it involves a United States Senator (Damian Young) and complicated shenanigans of high authorities in the corporate and political worlds. Tommy’s wrath erupts into a bloodbath in the last third of the film, the filmmakers seeking again to bring the audience along with the age-old argument that they nasty guys deserved their fate. Forget all that nonsense about not repaying “anyone evil for evil.”
For reflection/Discussion A spoiler at the end.
1. How is this film similar to most other vengeance films? How do the flashbacks to Emma as a child help convince the audience that what her father wreaks upon his enemies is justifiable?
2. In order to go along with Tommy, what Scriptural teachings must we abandon? How widespread do you think such sentiments are? Where do you see it affecting our legal/court system?
3. What do you think of Tommy’s statement, “You had better decide whether you’re hangin’ on the cross… or bangin’ in the nails” ? Some critics have seen this as referencing an earlier Gibson movie: what do you think?
4. How is Tommy’s fate similar to that of other heroes whom he has played? (And also by Charlton Heston in his science fiction films?)