Morals are some truly of the most complex things in life, everybody seems to have their own, and they all seem to be different. Yes, sometimes morals can be very well-defined, but at other times they are very hard to understand. There are even times when they only make sense inside the mind of the individual who promotes them. Sanctioning Evil, a new crime thriller, tries to explore this fine line between what is good and what is bad, showing the audience that even the shades of gray mix with each other at every single step.
The film is directed by Ante Novakovic and stars Tobias Truvillion, Zach McGowan, Taryn Manning, and Kyle Travis Sharp, who also has a credit as screenwriter. The film tells the story of Sergeant Barnes, who, after being in charge of a unit that ends up killing civilians in Afghanistan, is discharged from the military with no benefits at all. This puts the man in a difficult position until an up-and-coming US congressman offers him a new job, hunting people who should not be on the streets. The job will become more complicated than it seems at first glance.
Filmmaking has been making a lot of movies lately with expert killers turning into hitmen and then enacting revenge on their enemies for some reason or another. The tale of a hitman looking for what is right seems to be one of those great premises that don’t get old. Maybe it is the fact that the premise lends itself to action-packed films, which can be a lot of fun. Or maybe because having someone like a hitman having an existential crisis seems like the clearest example that right and wrong are subjects of massive complexity.
Sanctioning Evil takes the premise and uses it to its benefit, but instead of going down the comic book route, a la John Wick, it ends up telling a story that feels a lot more grounded in reality. A story that, in fact, ends up becoming so real towards the end that it makes the lines between good and evil seem almost nonexistent, or maybe one and the same. This perspective makes the film feel unique in contrast with other films dealing with the same subjects, as most of them have a more clear view of what is right and wrong when delivering their message.
Ante Novakovic does a very good job in the director’s chair. The movie has this pulsing atmosphere that makes you feel like things could go wrong at any minute. All the scenes seem to have a purpose, as they either explore the characters or end up pushing the plot forward. Maybe, some scenes could be taken out, especially at the beginning when the movie seems to have a hard time starting up, but once it gets going, the movie really puts the characters into complicated situations. It is some good drama.
The movie does offer a couple of action sequences here and there, but they are very small. Again, this is not John Wick or your latest Liam Neeson joint. You won’t be seeing the characters shooting hundreds of rounds per minute or doing complicated stunts. The moments of action are accentuated by their brevity because the movie is trying to work in the reality of the situations, it is not trying to enhance that reality to make it cool or fun. This is a brave move, as many times these types of movies try to become fun affairs, even when it goes against the execution of their themes.
Tobias Truvillion works great as a protagonist. The actor has this subtle intensity about him, which works very well with the nature of his character. Here is a man that is trying to scream all of his frustrations out loud, and yet he needs to contain them and express those frustrations in other ways; more silently, but also more violently ways. Taryn Manning also makes an appearance, and as always, she is a welcome presence in anything she works on. The female roles in the film are quite small, but Manning definitely makes an impression.
Zach McGowan also makes a great impression in the role of a very sketchy US Congressman. The actor is often seen in roles that showcase his rough and intense physique. His role in Black Sails seems to have defined his career for many years, but in Sanctioning Evil he plays a very different type of character, and he does a good job. There is still a lot of his innate charisma around the character, but props to McGowan for trying to do something different. Kyle Travis Sharp also has an important role, but his performance is less showy and more internal than the others.
In the end, Sanctioning Evil seems to have a slow start that might put some people off, and the subject might be a bit too mundane for audiences that are just looking for a good time. However, when the film gets going, it ends up becoming this fascinating exploration of morals in a world that doesn’t want anything to do with them. The film also goes for an ending that feels the complete opposite of what other films are doing. Some might find it anticlimactic, but Sanctioning Evil goes for it and makes the film worth watching.