Menace recounts the deadly shootout between local bully James Roszko and Canadian police, by inter-cutting two different narratives: One, following the events of the final confrontation; and the second, showing flashbacks to Roszko's repeated run-ins with the law, spanning the nearly 15 years before the shooting.
Local police, particularly Corporal Alex Stanton (Henry Czerny), recognize early on that Roszko (Brian Markinson) is a threat to the small community of Mayerthorpe, especially to young boys, but despite Stanton's best efforts, Roszko manages to avoid prosecution until disaster occurs.
This is the familiar story of a sociopath who manages to fall through the cracks of the judicial system, even though common sense dictates he should be locked up. Czerny delivers the film's best performance, conveying Stanton's frustration as he is repeatedly thwarted in his efforts to get a dangerous man off the streets - while remaining emotionally contained, as his profession requires. In one effective scene, Stanton boils over for a split second and yells at Roszko, causing him to flinch.
Markinson is appropriately creepy as the unrepentant Roszko, who becomes a powder keg ready to blow as society fails to check his actions. Diane Ladd makes a brief appearance as Roszko's dysfunctional mother, hinting at the source of Roszko's demons.
There's nothing particularly distinguished about this made-for-TV docudrama, which is reminiscent of many similar U.S. productions; however, the stark Canadian setting makes it more interesting, as Canada is generally unfamiliar with the type of violence that is rampant in the U.S. Appropriately enough, the assault weapon used against the police was obtained in the U.S.
And as with similar films, one can't help pondering the issues raised, starting with the precarious balance of the individual's rights in a free society vs. the safety of a community. In a society that is insane enough to allow ownership of automatic weapons (without which, this slaughter could not have occurred), perhaps something has to give way.
Recommended particularly for Czerny's performance.
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