Justice

Writer-director Evan Oppenheimer's admirably subtle bit of chronological trickery allows his small-scale drama, set in 9/11 New York, to deliver a sucker-punch of an ending. Structured as a series of short scenes punctuated by blackouts, the film cuts back and forth between three apparently unconnected stories. Activist lawyer Roberta Vasquez (Daphne Rubin-Vega),...read more

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Reviewed by Maitland McDonagh
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Writer-director Evan Oppenheimer's admirably subtle bit of chronological trickery allows his small-scale drama, set in 9/11 New York, to deliver a sucker-punch of an ending. Structured as a series of short scenes punctuated by blackouts, the film cuts back and forth between three apparently unconnected stories. Activist lawyer Roberta Vasquez (Daphne Rubin-Vega), perpetually on her cell phone, tries to balance battling bureaucratic indifference, mentoring her associate, Monique (Joelle Carter), and keeping her marriage alive. Roberta and her husband are trying to have a baby, but she sometimes wonders how they'll be able to raise a child when they can't find time to make one. Hardworking Kashmiri immigrant Mohammed (Ajay Naidu) maintains a sunny and optimistic attitude as he crosses paths with the many varieties of New Yorker who patronize his "Breakfast Time" food cart. Although Mohammed never planned to stay in New York, he has fallen in love, both with the city and a woman he's afraid his old-fashioned parents won't accept. The bulk of the film's running time is given over to morose writer Drew (Palladino), who works for a Marvel-like mainstream comic-book publisher. Drew has lost his will to write the same old superhero stories since his best friend, Bobby Goldberg, died in the attacks on the World Trade Center. Determined to pay tribute to Bobby, Drew persuades his reluctant boss (David Patrick Kelly) to okay "Justice," a limited-run series about "the hero inside us all" in which an everyman becomes a crime-fighter. The gimmick — the boss says there has to be one — is that the particulars of Justice's everyday life will be based on those of a real, ordinary person. Once the first issue is on the stands, Drew and his collaborator, artist Julia (Marisa Ryan), cook up a guerilla publicity campaign that attracts the attention of a Village Voice writer. Unfortunately, she wants to interview the regular Joe behind Justice, and Drew never got around to asking substitute teacher Tre (SPAWN star Michael Jai White), whom he met on a neighborhood basketball court, whether it was okay to appropriate the details of his life and bestow them on a comic-book vigilante. It's hard to tell whether Palladino meant the sullen, self-pitying Drew to be such an irritating drip; if he did, kudos for courage but the character still drags down an otherwise likable drama that draws its three stories together in a quietly effective climax.

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  • Released: 2004
  • Rating: NR
  • Review: Writer-director Evan Oppenheimer's admirably subtle bit of chronological trickery allows his small-scale drama, set in 9/11 New York, to deliver a sucker-punch of an ending. Structured as a series of short scenes punctuated by blackouts, the film cuts back… (more)

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