Based on the brief two-line plot synopsis it sounds as if "Het Vonnis" is the Belgian version of "Death Wish", but a lot more accurate comparison would be that this is the Belgian "A Time to Kill", for example. The majority of the film takes place inside the courtroom where a vigilante action/crime of vengeance is being trialled, while the crime itself is only gradually shown in brief sequences. There exist hundreds of courtroom dramas, admittedly, but "Het Vonnis" is given a typical and unmistakable Belgian character due to the subplot of the so-called "judicial error"
It might be happening elsewhere in the world, surely, but I assure you that in Belgium it occurs embarrassingly frequent. Writer/director Jan Verheyen, who truly surpassed himself with this film, allegedly wrote the screenplay out of frustration after watching another saddening news bulletin of such a judicial/procedural error. These errors can be a lot of stupid things, but the most outrageous of them all is that a criminal gets released from prison – although clearly proved guilty – because the signature of the investigating magistrate is missing on some document. This is exactly what "Het Vonnis" is about. Luc Segers is what they call "a man who's got everything". He's happily married to a beautiful wife named, they have a lovely 7-year-old daughter and Luc is about to be promoted to CEO of the company he's been putting his heart and soul in for so many years. But then Luc loses everything, when a senselessly brutal robbery leaves his wife and daughter dead and himself in a long coma. It doesn't take too long before the police apprehends the culprit, but he's released again even faster due to such a judicial error. From that moment, Luc Segers' mind snaps and he can only think about revenge, against his family's murderer and against the legal system. He executes the murderer but immediately surrenders himself to the police, and promptly a gigantic media circus ensues. Segers' is a hero according to the public, but the humiliated legal system naturally can't allow for him to get away with vigilante murder. This is definitely Jan Verheyen's best and most mature film. He's often looked down upon by Belgian critics and amateur film experts, and admittedly he has made a few inferior films, but I've always been a fan of him. "Het Vonnis" is extremely well- written, full of jaw-dropping monologues and courtroom pleas and wisely – very wisely – doesn't at one point attempt to insert any comic relief or irrelevant sub plots. The climax is intriguing and keeps your mind active for long after the movie has finished. The acting performances are stellar, but I didn't expect otherwise since "Het Vonnis" stars the elite of the Belgian acting community. Most of all, I would prefer to see Jan Verheyen return to hosting horror nights on TV or touring with his cinema show called "Nacht van de Wansmaak" again, but making good movies like this one is the next best thing