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Review Extreme Justice (1993): LAPD Death Squad! Would you believe it that this actually exists?

genre: action, crime, thriller

Here I was thinking that I was going to watch a fun B-actioner to then be confronted this is nothing of the sort. Instead this is more a crime film that is about a real elite unit within the LAPD called the Special Investigation Section, S.I.S. *. This unit stand by criminal activities and then apprehend them after they leave the scene. Let this sink in for a moment. So they first let the criminals commit the criminal act, doing god knows what and then after the fact they will apprehend the perpetrators. In the film this usually resulted in the deaths of these perpetrators and some innocent bystanders.

Now I don't know enough about the real practice of this unit but seeing how the police in the US more and more are acting like they are above the law I have a hard time accepting that this unit is any different. Of course, the film sensationalizes and exaggerates everything. Still combing the facts about police brutality and the article in one of the links underneath, all of this might not be as far-fetched as you think. Just read the comments in the following article to see how proud some of the people are. I can't tell you how disgusted I am with this attitude and so-called efficient way of crime fighting. Yes, I know there are some real evil people out there who would not hesitate one second to commit the most vile acts known to man. However, that does not give anyone the right to do the same. Waiting for a criminal act to have finished instead of preventing that crime is despicable. In this film there are some good examples of that, and honestly I was completely disgusted. It is a real shame that this film sort of flew under the radar, since I am curious if there would be any outrage about had this got more popular. Surely more people would have some problems with the methods of this real life unit? Anyway, let me talk about the film a little.

Extreme Justice opens up with the S.I.S. in action. You immediately will get an idea what they are about. Then we get to see Jeff Powers (played by Lou Diamond Phillips) overstepping his bounds by beating up a low life thug. Dan Vaughn helps him out by calling in some favours so that Powers is in the clear with Internal Affairs. For Vaughn Powers is the ideal candidate to join the team and Jeff is very happy to join. Until he gets confronted with some truths and moral objections. Lou Diamond Phillips does a decent job of playing the cop who is caught in between two sides. We see him struggle to keep doing the right thing, but he also does not want to betray his colleagues. Scott Glenn (Vaughn) is magnificent as always as the likeable villain. In this film, there is no question about it that he is. But if he were the only one, this would be a problem easy to deal with. Vaughn and his team are covered and protected by the police department and all the higher ups that matter, and naturally they don't see themselves as bad guys as they feel they are completely justified. In the film, it is even remarked by the captain (Ed Lauter) that they aren't some Third World death squad. No, they are so much worse. Because they pretend to be righteous and just while they clearly are breaking the law as they see fit.

Like I said, this is mostly about this unit and their methods and not an action film. There is some action in it which is adequate, but nothing special or remarkable. It's far from the high octane action and thrills promised in the trailer, but it sure is compelling once you realize this unit actually exists.

So is this worth your time? That depends. If you were hungry for some good action, then this won't be for you. But if you like me are intrigued by the fact that this is about a real unit that is still active today, then you should watch this for sure. Especially the last words uttered by Vaughn will give you chills since it's true.

*Some links concerning this unit:

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