Lionsgate // 2008 // 112 Minutes // Rated R
Reviewed by Judge David Johnson // December 9th, 2008
Revenge was his only answer.
What would you do if a bunch of racist guys from the 1800s killed your family right in front of you? That's the central question this film seeks to answer. (Hint: It involves shooting lots of dudes.)
The Civil War has ended, Reconstruction is happening, and Union troops have begun to clear out of the South. Reese Paxton (Eric Braeden) is a former Confederate soldier now earning his wage as a cotton field foreman, overseeing former slaves. It's a good gig and he's respectful to his newly emancipated workforce, but the dirt-bag son of the town's judge decides to @$#% things up by abusing the workers and framing Reese for murder.
It gets worse.
As they cart him off to prison, the bad guys pass Reese's homestead where they take a timeout to kill his wife and son in front of his eyes, which obviously rubs him the wrong way. Then it's off to prison. There Reese stews in his own hatred, until he finally hatches a plan to escape and distribute brutal retribution on anyone that wronged him.
This movie is pure vengeance porn and little else. Maybe these guys were trying to make a statement about workers' rights and racism. There's a title card at the end referencing the real-life strike that took place among cotton workers during Reconstruction, but even that has only a small presence in the film. Really, it's all about using a bunch of racist white guys with greasy hair and pasty skin as a target for our protagonist's violent tendencies.
The Man Who Came Back is divided into three sections: Part 1 sets the stage for Reese's blood feud, lays out the villains, establishes the ex-slaves as the prey that will eventually play a role in dishing out bodacious violence, and generally provides our hero with the impetus for his killing spree; Part 2 is Reese in prison, where life gets even worse; and Part 3 is a non-stop series of exotic death scenes where Reese gets the opportunity to finally vent his frustration. The last third of the movie is easily the most entertaining. After all this guy has been through, there's an undeniable catharsis to cut a swath of death, weeping, and gnashing of teeth.
The film more than earns its R-rating, thanks to these moments and a bizarre sex daydream. Reese slashes throats, drowns women, beats faces with bricks, fills dudes with lead, and even crucifies a crooked preacher! As the avenging angel, Eric Braeden brings a nice badass approach to the role. He's not the lithest of action heroes, but the guy is all man, talks some serious trash, and boasts a legendary mustache.
As much as I can get behind a mindless revenge picture, there's not much else to this one. Everyone in it are one-dimensional cut-outs. The bad guys? Irredeemable douchebags who exist solely to be bullet magnets. The former slaves? Objects of sympathy and foils for the bad guys to be hated even more. The Man Who Came Back is as empty as its main character.
The DVD is no-frills, sporting a nice 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen and a 5.1 Dolby Digital surround. Extras: Deleted scenes; Commentary with Braeden, director Glen Pitre, and writer Chuck Walker; and footage from the red-carpet premiere.
Light on the substance but heavy on the killin'.
Guilty, mainly because, well...I'd just be repeating myself.
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Scales of Justice
* 1.78:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
Running Time: 112 Minutes
Release Year: 2008
MPAA Rating: Rated R
* Deleted Scenes
* Premiere Footage