Return of the screen vigilante</b></h1>
Director spotlights the fate of crime victims and Iraq veterans
Mark Townsend and David Smith
Sunday February 25, 2007
Almost fifteen years after Michael Douglas played an ordinary man betrayed by society, Britain has its own version of Falling Down
Directed by Nick Love, Outlaw follows five men who form a vigilante gang after becoming embittered over lenient sentencing, police corruption, yob culture and the early release of violent offenders. Starring Sean Bean and Bob Hoskins, the movie follows the group as they mete out summary justice in a contemporary Britain riven with violence.
The film centres on an Iraq veteran played by Bean who returns from active service only to be greeted by abusive youths and endemic street crime. In one scene the vigilantes ask Bean how they will dispense justice. 'I don't know yet,' he replies. 'But if you want to spend the rest of your life being raped and bullied by cunts like Blair, paying taxes for hospitals that don't exist, letting child killers off the hook, living in flat pack homes held together by Blu-Tac and loneliness, then walk out the door.'
Love said the treatment of Iraq veterans had informed his own misgivings about the government, police and courts. 'I know people from the first Iraq war who came back and felt absolutely disillusioned about the fact they had given their lives and careers, but for what?'
This week Love's concerns will be illustrated when David Bradley, a Gulf war veteran who slid into despair on leaving the army, appears in court having admitted he shot dead four members of his family in cold blood after 'flipping'. The 41-year-old has pleaded guilty to manslaughter on the ground of diminished responsibility after the shootings in Newcastle last summer.
Love, 37, began writing Outlaw two years ago, inspired by the true story of a schoolboy seriously injured in an unprovoked attack. The young attackers' sentences meant they were released while the victim was still in hospital after reconstructive surgery.
'He was still getting his face rebuilt while they were freed,' said Love. 'The incident made only a few paragraphs in an article within the inside pages of a local newspaper.'
Critics expect the film, for release on 9 March, will have a similar impact to Falling Down in 1993. 'There's enough to rail against, after all," said the veteran reviewer Barry Norman. 'The way our personal freedoms are being whittled away is a cause of Falling Down proportions ... The Iraq war is probably one of the biggest foreign policy blunders ever made by a British Prime Minister, so that is an issue for everyone.'
Love said: 'What sort of law have we in a country where the victims of crime seem to end up in a worse state than the criminals? There is a serious failure in the criminal justice system; streets where there is a sense of lawlessness. But the film does not condone vigilantism; you can't defeat violence with violence.'
In one scene the gang prepare to hang a thug suspected of killing a lawyer's wife and unborn baby. They argue among themselves about whether they should go ahead and kill him. 'What would you do in that position?', said Love, a one-time teen criminal and heroin user who says he was saved by the 'short sharp shock' policy of the 1980s.
There are also parallels with Death Wish, the 1974 movie directed by Britain's Michael Winner and starring Charles Bronson as an accountant who turns vigilante after his wife and daughter are murdered by street yobs.
Brian Garfield, who wrote the novel on which the film was based, said it was born of his own everyday experience of crime. Garfield, speaking from his home in Los Angeles, said: 'Seeing Death Wish in a cinema in Times Square, it was amazing when Bronson took out his gun and pointed it at some mugger and people got up in their seats and shouted: "Yeah".'
'I never expected that. There is a deep emotion, perhaps genetic urge for revenge. It's not good, but it's there.'
Ebbe Roe Smith, the screenwriter of Falling Down, said: 'I was walking through LA thinking of all the little things that pissed me off. I'd imagine the same theme would work in a film about British society.'
Released: February 1993
Lead actors: Michael Douglas, Robert Duvall
Plot: Divorced engineer takes on everyday injustices and ends up stealing guns from gang members
Key quotation: 'I am not a vigilante. I am just trying to get home to my little girl's birthday party, and if everyone will just stay out of my way nobody will get hurt'
Released: March 2007
Lead actors: Sean Bean, Bob Hoskins
Plot: Vigilante group take law into their own hands after losing faith in the police and judiciary
Key quotation: 'I've got the confidence to fight back, but if you want to spend the rest of you life being bullied and raped by cunts like Blair... I am talking about legitimate targets. I'm talking about the people that have hurt you'