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Due Justice (2023) Review

Due Justice is the latest film in the never ending line of Taken wannabes where a former badass has to go back into action to rescue their kidnapped daughter. In this case it’s Max (Kellan Lutz, Come Out Fighting, Divertimento) an attorney who, along with his boss Claire (Robin Magdhalen, Summoning the Spirit, Devils Lake) are lawyers celebrating winning their latest case when Max hears a familiar voice from across the restaurant.

It’s his brother Jerry (Manu Intiraymi, The 5th Passenger, Bad President) who isn’t happy to see him, probably due to the company he’s dinning with. As it turns out, Jerry was undercover for the FBI and that meeting triggered the suspicion of Ellis (Jeff Fahey, Hypnotic, The Long Night), Roxy (Chelsea Lopez, Phoenix Forgotten, Are We Not Cats?) and their crew. It’s not long before both Jerry and Max’s wife are dead, and his daughter abducted while he’s at the office working late.

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To the surprise of probably no one reading this, it turns out that Max is ex-military with a “complicated” past that involves a dishonourable discharge for unspecified reasons. It should be equally unsurprising when he decides not to trust the police in the form of Detectives Santiago (Efren Ramirez, Satanic Hispanics, Crank: High Voltage) and Vasquez (Tonantzin Esparza, The Rise and Fall of the Brown Buffalo, Walkout), to find his daughter.

Due Justice was written and directed by Javier Reyna, whose previous feature credits consist of writing and directing Regionrat and being one of three credited writers on Black Warrant. His lack of experience shows almost immediately as he keeps the deaths off-screen, which detracts from their ability to fire up the viewer. He also lets Max have a flashback to something he couldn’t have seen. Even worse, almost nothing happens during the first hour of Due Justice except talk, lots and lots of talk.

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The story is actually more involved with Santiago’s investigations into missing children and organ trafficking and his dealing with his failed marriage than anything else. Max is a side character for most of it. Then in the last act, Max makes a set of throwing knives and tries to go Rambo on Ellis and his crew, but promptly gets himself captured and has to be rescued by Santiago. This sets up a twist you’ll have seen coming a mile away, as the film limps to one of the most pathetic endings I’ve run across in a long time.

Along the way, various interesting ideas are raised and then squandered or dropped without another mention. Max’s dishonourable discharge turns out to be nothing, and the tinnitus so severe it makes him pass out vanishes as soon as Max goes after Ellis and company. The same with Santiago’s marital woes, I expected his wife and kids to somehow factor into the main plot. But they’re just another side story there to pad out the running time.

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Even the cast seem to have realized their agents had trafficked them into a stinker, and pretty much sleepwalk through their roles. The exception is Fahey who indulges in some scenery chewing as Ellis. I expected Lopez, who plays a Harley Quinn type character, to deliver in that department, but she dials it in as well.

I can understand Reyna wanting to make Due Justice, something besides another Taken clone. But I can’t understand the plotting decisions that led to this script. And I wonder who he thought was going to get through to the film’s end and find the ending anything but a raised middle finger. Even by the standards of third tier action films, this is a mess.

Saban Films will release Due Justice in select theatres as well as to VOD and Digital Platforms on November 24th.

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