When you walk out your front door, do you sometimes feel helpless and your neighborhood is falling apart? Do you believe that the only person who can make a difference is you? An ordinary man is pushed to his moral limits in writer/director RJ Cusyk’s keep justice.
Michael (Hayden Mackey) is a pressure cooker about to crack. He works a banal 9 to 5 with a coworker’s sexual pervert. But it’s the state of the outside world that makes him want to have fun and pushes him to his limits. Crime is out of control and the police are either helpless or don’t care. After several tragic events, Michael finds himself pushed to the limit.
First, a woman is found beaten to death outside her office. Then, on the way home, Michael helps a young girl who has been raped. But, when he tells her to go to the police, she ignores him, knowing that they won’t do anything. Frustrated with the state of his hometown, he goes out for a late-night walk and encounters a gang rape, with a corrupt cop wanting to take his turn. He explodes and murders the gang and the dirty cop. The next day, the dead officer is hailed a hero, while Michael seemingly gets away with the murders because only the victim (Karla Alvarez) knows what really happened.
From the start, you will see that keep justice is a low-budget indie thriller that often struggles to overcome its lack of money. So let’s start with the movie challenges and work our way up. First of all, it’s clear that the feature didn’t have a real production design budget, which has its own pros and cons. Cusyk makes great use of what he has. It shoots in real places – homes, real offices – which frankly is sometimes better than trying to create places from scratch.
Like most vigilante movies, there’s a lot of blood and violence. But, while staying within his low budget, the filmmaker makes good use of stealthy camera angles, quick edits, and cinematic magic to pull off the blood and gore.
“…Michael seems to get away with the murders because only the victim knows what really happened.
keep justice suffers the most in acting. Overall, the acting feels scripted, meaning the cast is more concerned with saying the lines they’ve memorized than “digesting” them into character to feel natural. There are dark moments involving the aftermath of sexual assault, and sadly, the actors just aren’t able to adequately handle the emotional reality of those moments. For independent filmmakers, finding time to rehearse before shooting will exponentially improve any production.
Mackey is good as Michael and carries most of the film. But he lacks some of the intense emotional depth needed to pull off the character. There are dark places the character has to go, and he can’t get there.
The best part of keep justice is the story. Although far from perfect, Cusyk delves into the mind of a vigilante. Michael is not a muscular ex-cop or a superhero. Instead, he is depicted as an ordinary man. He’s an average guy who’s fed up with his town’s deterioration and realizes he’s the only one who really cares.
Michael also realizes the consequences of his actions and how it affects his personal life. This newfound sense of justice affects how he feels about the office bully, while the slow deterioration of his soul affects any chance of love with co-worker Karen (Anna McShane). Since vigilantism is illegal almost everywhere, Michael becomes increasingly paranoid that he will be discovered.
Once you know what you’re getting into keep justice, the film becomes a recommendation. I found Michael’s story intriguing to explore, especially for a micro-budget indie. RJ Cusyk crafts a decent thriller from scratch, but I wish the elements under his control had been handled better.