Two policemen tell Craven their wives would like to help. He has no wife; his daughter also had left him. About himself, he says he had never done enough to have enemies. The dead activists have families wanting answers. The traitor cop explains himself citing the wife & kids. Jedburgh allows a cop with a family to shoot him; (terminally ill, his imagination recalls his shouting father.) Few women appear.
Craven snaps at people trying to comfort him. He refuses to leave his house. No children means no one to bury you, he says. He agrees with Jedburgh, it’s like never having had children. The story then, we note, emphasizes Craven’s aloofness. He says his daughter was no joiner either – her young beloved tells him, when necessity is upon you, you become an activist. His cure for necessity is alcohol; he is transparently cowardly. But does Craven earn his name?
Craven refuses to return to the city. There is an awful scene, the man seeing his dead child in the coroner’s office. He refuses to invite those who have a respectable claim on him to his daughter’s funeral. He burns his inheritance in his backyard. He is preparing to die, to rejoin his family. He recalls Christ once, asking a man to decide whether he’s on the cross or banging in the nails.
This prepares us to see the injustice of the city. The recurring ‘Everything’s illegal in Massachusetts’ is contemptuous. Illegal pleasure emerges as an angry rejection of the city. Mainly, guns & other manly things are illegal. Liberalism has abandoned the men that built it. Progress & demagogy mean government promises to do everything for the people. Thus arise enormous moral burdens & comparable avenues for corruption. Perhaps corruption is inevitable in big cities – agreement on property is just too unlikely.
But there’s just a few basic things you gotta get right. Always do the best you can by your family. Go to work every day. Always speak your mind. Never hurt anyone that doesn’t deserve it… & never take anything from the bad guys.
This is not exactly succor the feeble & humble the proud, but it ultimately goes there. Perhaps piety reveals sacred limits on human action. Beyond lies unclean death. The radiation poisoning is connected to the corruption. The moral virtues are failing, perhaps because of science, which is secretive. This reminds man he faces his mortality & must defend his humanity. Craven sees cowardice undermine the very willingness to see the difficult questions because he himself did not face the question, the price of justice, righteous punishment. He is learning to reconcile himself to death. The light recalls the question, are you justified?
Mel Gibson’s return to tough-guy movies. A somber story about the ugliness of justice.