Robert McCall is a highly competent and hugely motivated action guy, a man who goes looking for trouble so he can sort it out. In this movie he ends up in a coastal Sicilian village, a beautiful place except for one thing. The local mafia who make life hell for the locals. McCall watches and waits for his opportunity – that pleasing moment when he warns the mafia thugs that they are in trouble, even though they are heavily armed and spewing out their own threats. It’s pleasing because we know that McCall is the good guy who is going to wipe out the bad guys, all on his own. It’s not unlike the Magnificent Seven, hired to save the town from marauders – it’s just that in this case we’re talking about the Magnificent One.
The battle for good versus evil has driven so many films over the years, not least the cowboy movies in decades gone by. And now the cowboys often wear tights and capes, carry gadgets, and can fly. And they come out of the Marvel and DC universes. We have an innate sense of right and wrong, and a longing for justice. Watching a powerful film about injustice (the film Till for example) can make your blood boil.
And the David and Goliath stories continue to inspire us, the lone woman or man taking on a gang or a corporation. Julia Roberts won her Oscar for playing Erin Brockovich in the film of the same name, an unmarried mother who took on a power company for polluting a town. The International Justice Mission are just one organisation who continue the fight against the Goliath of modern slavery, often working covertly to set people free. Their battle is fought not with guns and grenades, but with faith and courage, through the channels of law enforcement and intelligence.
We only have to read the psalms to know that injustice is as old as the world itself, ever since Cain butchered Abel the blood of the oppressed has been crying out to God. Psalm 58 brings us these cries: ‘Justice – do you rulers know the meaning of the word? Do you judge the people fairly? No, all your dealings are crooked; you hand out violence instead of justice… Break off their fangs, O God! Smash the jaws of these lions, O LORD!’ and I have to admit, when I read and hear the true stories of trafficking this is the kind of cry that rises in my heart. That God would break the power of those who seek to profit from harming others. And psalms like no 58 are a vital reminder that God works through our honest prayers, and actions, and words; and we are all called to be peacemakers in what we say and do, to bless others and so be blessed ourselves. (Matthew 5 v 9)