I don’t know how she did it, and it’s never explained, but somehow or other Riley North (Jennifer Garner) managed to get the bodies of three thugs that she had killed hanging like bats from the spokes of a ferris wheel. She’s a resourceful gal. And what a tragedy it was that provoked such fabulous savagery. Leaving a carnival one night, her husband and tiny daughter were gunned down by tattooed guys employed as muscle for a drug cartel. The film makes it clear that the hubby had rejected an offer to be a driver for the bad guys, thus making Riley’s behaviour spotless – if you agree that murderous revenge is perfectly acceptable, that is. She would not have been forced into taking such action if the court had sentenced the assassins to the punishment they deserved, but it turns out that just about everybody in the LAPD and California judicial system are corrupt and under the thumb of the odious Diego Garcia (Juan Pablo Raba). Devastated by the judge’s ruling, Riley went off the grid for five years, during which time she was in Europe turning herself into a female Jack Reacher. French director Pierre Morel gave us Taken (2008), one of those Liam Neeson flicks in which he has the world against him but, with a sympathetic audience willing him on, triumphs over the villains through superior brutality. This is in the same vein and, again, Morel relies heavily on our most primitive need to exact vengeance on those who have wronged us. The last time I saw Garner she was an understanding mom to her gay son in Love, Simon, so this is an extreme turnaround for her, but she handles the physicality and ruthlessness of the part well. Rough justice is the American way and it is endlessly sanctioned by Hollywood – if only there weren’t a market for it. The ending suggests that Riley won’t be out of sight for too long, so we should fasten our seat belts in readiness for more lustful slaughter.
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