The law needs a shake-up

Barbed wire and razor wire
Nope - can't use this

I’ve had a bit of a conversation on Twitter with John about this, but 140 letters at a time isn’t something that can do this subject justice. To start with the back-story:

Leah and I went out on Friday night. By the time we got back, some kids had got around the back of her flats (as they frequently do) and managed to smash the waste pipe coming down from the abck of the building. End result – shit all over the back area, flies all over, stench and no way we could use our bathrooms until it was repaired. At 10pm, no DIY places were open so short of a 24-hour (i.e. expensive) plumber, we were screwed.

These kids have caused damage in the past. The back window’s been broken more than once. Not just cracked, but completely smashed out of the frame. This lets them into the stairwell where they shelter and grafitti. And urinate. Rubbish is all over the back area. Bins have been set alight.

In all, not pleasant.

But what can we do about it? I asked the policewoman who came out to check the damage. The answer, effectively, is “bugger all”.

Go back thirty years and broken glass at the tops of walls was commonplace. I know we had it in the house I grew up. Forget it these days. Any prospective burglar or miscreant who cuts themselves will sue you. Same goes for burglar-proof paint, barbed wire or anything of that ilk. Hell, put a fence up and if they fall off it then you’re looking at a civil suit.

I can’t video them. Well, a CCTV camera only covering the communal area is fine. But as soon as said camera starts focussing on individuals then it’s a potential breach of the peace. Same goes for still photography. Hence we can’t identify them too closely and leave it to the police to go chasing them, even though these kids are known to them.

Apprehend them? Don’t be so stupid. If I lay a hand on one, then it’s potential assault. Detain them until the police arrive and it’s anlawful imprisonment or even kidnap. Don’t think of attempting to place someone under citizen’s arrest (even if you’re an off-duty peace officer) unless they’ve guilty of at least a serious assault or robbery.

Incidentally, the police are very unlikely to bring this fact up. However, should the little shit… I mean kid… or their parents complain then the police are obliged to caution you and the rest. You’re chancing it – decent parents will likely accept their kid has done wrong and be more interested in sorting them out. However, the kind of parents who let their 12 year old get pissed up and vandalise property on a regular basis are hardly likely to do this. They’re more likely to spot a chance to get someone else into trouble and possibly wangle some cash out of it.

Now, John’s responses to these points were that if you could withhold someone then anyone could grab anyone else and say that the detainee had damaged their property. The question you have to ask is why would anyone do this? Why catch someone who’s not guilty and detain them?

As things stand, all the police have to go on is your memory and a description of someone. They then have to locate that person, arrest them and get you to identify them. By that stage, the miscreant may have legged it, or at very least got a story sorted with a third party. Then it’s your word against theirs.

By catching them in the act and detaining them, you’re ensuring they can’t sort out an alibi, get rid of evidence or quite simply vanish. I appreciate that policing is the job of the police but as the law stands, right-minded citizens can’t even help them.

These are shining examples of the law being on entirely the wrong side, protecting the accused (not guilty – we still have due process to undergo) and making life incredibly difficult for the wronged.

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Punisher: War Zone

Punisher: War Zone
Punisher: War Zone

You know sometimes you just want to watch stuff being blown up and bad guys having their heads blown off? Well, here’s one for you – Punisher: War Zone. Up there with the previous Thomas Jane outing (and probably better than the Dolph Lundgren one from years back that I’ve not seen), this time Ray Stevenson dons Frank Castle‘s skull-emblazoned shirt and kicks some ass. And decapitates some heads. And kneecaps some lower limbs.

Plot-in-a-nutshell: Castle kills someone he shouldn’t then goes out to kill lots and lots of people, very violently, to make up for it.

It’s a balls-out action film. Don’t expect a huge plot. Stevenson does a decent job as Castle, not saying much, brooding when he’s not killing people and with the occasional marginally pithy one-liner. Basically, he’s a big scary-looking guy in body armour. Which is what he should be.

The villain of the piece is Jigsaw (Dominic West) and he bears a remarkable resemblance to Tommy Lee JonesTwo-Face from one of the shittier Batman films (Batman Forever, I think – I try to blank them from my memory). Not just visually with a disfigured face, but in the way he acts. Strolling along full of too much self-confidence, trigger happy… though not as snappy a dresser. I swear in one scene he’s stolen Ernst Blofeld / Dr Evil’s white high-collared number.

Let’s face it, the only reason for watching/reading Punisher is for the gore and the violence. War Zone has it in spades. Chuck any pretence of story out of the window along with half a dozen bad guys, line all of The Punisher’s friends up as potential cannon-fodder, lock and load.

Total, utter, mindless violence. Top notch beer, chips ‘n’ dip movie viewing. One to watch when the other half is off out with her mates. Worked for me!

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Drag Me To Hell

ShowEast Trade Show 2008 :: Movie Poster for D...
Drag Me To Hell (ish)

It’s been a while since I’ve watched a horror. I went off them some time ago. Don’t know why, I just did. In fact, I think the last was Saw… something. They all seem the same after the second one. Well, this weekend I ran out of stuff to watch at the cinema (except Hannah bloody Montana and I’m not going to see that), leaving just Sam Raimi‘s Drag Me To Hell on the listings.

Plot-in-a-nutshell: Christine Brown (Alison Lohman) is a bank worker pushing for promotion. In a bid to make herself seem the tough-nut required, she turns down an old gypsy woman’s begging for a mortgage extension. And gets cursed. She has three day to break the curse or she’s off to become St Nick’s footstool.

Now, I love Raimi. I think the second and third Evil Dead films are awesome. He’s done wonderful things with Spiderman. And his second-unit direction work on The Hudsucker Proxy stood out a mile if you’d seen the earlier adventures of Ash vs the Deadites. To be honest, if this film hadn’t been by him (and incidentally featured pretty much his entire family) I’d not have bothered.

Aside from the streaks in my underpants (thankfully black so you can’t tell), I’m glad I did.

Raimi’s lost none of the flair for the ridiculous, shocking, silly and gross. The only major difference between this and his earlier works is budget, and the technology he can buy with it. Drag isn’t quite as silly as Evil Dead II simply as it doesn’t have a character like Ash in it. However, it’s still tense and jumpy while still making the audience laugh as much as scream. I bet you’ll hear chuckles in the house when you hear the line “Here, kitty-kitty”.

Actually, if you don’t jump out of your seat within the first 2-3 minutes of the film then check that your autonomous nervous system isn’t knackered.

Once the plot gets going you can almost predict the ending. It’s a schlock horror at heart and it’s not out to twist your brain as you try to battle the IQ of the writer. This is purely a film to make you go rigid, jump then laugh. It’s entertainment. And it does it well.

It’s not often I go to the cinema today and hear the audience reacting. In fairness, it’s almost always horrors that do it. Hell, the last time I recall hearing an audience roaring with laughter at a comedy was at Mrs Doubtfire. Eek. But Drag achieved that.

That alone should be a recommendation. It’s no classic, but it is a good bit of cinema.

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12 Rounds

Cover of "Die Hard Collection (Die Hard /...
Couldn't find a 12 Rounds pic. This is close enough.

Imagine a cross between Die Hard 3 and 16 Blocks only without Bruce Willis. Or any other actors you may have heard of before. Add a dash of The Game and a random ex-fake wrestler (the WWE even produced the film), stir in Renny Harlin directing someone other than his ex-wife. Leave to simmer and you have 12 Rounds.

Plot-in-a-nutshell: Cop arrests bad guy, but bad buy’s girlfriend dies in freak accident. Bad guy escapes jail and comes back for revenge. Or does he…?

Ok, the plot doesn’t matter crap here. 12 Rounds is about action sequences. Try to justify anything in here with logic and you might as well not bother watching the film. You know, a bit like Die Hard 4.0 only not quite as awful.

John Cena does a decent job of not quite acting, and an excellent job of the stunts. He’s huge, and thankfully there’s not a lot in the way of fistfights because it would take someone the size of an in-shape Arnie to provide any semblance of a fair competition. Don’t expect him to be taking any oscars soon, but he’s definitely got the edge on Hulk Hogan as far as action is concerned.

There’s not a lot else to say about the film, to be honest. Virtually plotless until someone remembered after 90 minutes that they need to tie everything together. It’s all a string of seemingly random stunts and explosions and, you know, that’s fine what what it is.

I can’t figure out whether some of the scenes and lines were subconsciously stolen or are a tribute to the films that 12 Rounds is ripping off. Keep an ear out for the resident bad guy chatting over the phone while on a street car when he “twigs” that the FBI are involved. The whole way he says “F… B… I…” he may as well adopt a Hans Kruber German accent.

Don’t go in expecting the best film ever and you won’t be disappointed. You’ve seen it all before – the basic story, some of the sequences – but they hang together well and it’s not a bad way to spend an hour and a half in a dark room.

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More ways to waste your time

Puzzle Baron
Puzzle Baron

After giving a quick plug to another puzzle site recently, I discovered Puzzle Baron. It’s along the same lines with around a dozen different mental games. You can play some online, some are available to print out as PDF files, and others you can do both ways.

Definitely worth a look. It’s the first site I’ve found with free logic problems (you know, the ones with the grids?) as well as a version of Boggle.


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