Review: ‘John Doe: Vigilante’ is ‘Dexter'-ish and weightless

Jamie Bamber in the movie "John Doe: Vigilante."

When TV’s Dexter, the serial killer who targets other killers, left the airwaves last fall, he left plenty of room for copycats.

Into that void strides “John Doe: Vigilante,” a pseudo-intellectual exercise in bombast and glorified violence. Kelly Dolen’s procedural masquerades as a solemn debate about the pros and cons of extreme vigilantism as an alternative to a dysfunctional legal system, but its characters and scenarios are so artificial that writer Stephen M. Coates’ arguments are no more relevant to real life than anecdotes from an ethics textbook.

John Doe (Jamie Bamber) is handsome, intelligent, idiosyncratically principled and charismatically coy — just like some other small-screen serial killer we know. Even after his arrest, he proves himself an expert media manipulator, and that’s why he’s granting a rare interview to self-serious TV journalist Ken Rutherford (Lachy Hulme). John Doe wants to explain his actions — the 33 people he assassinated were all unrepentant, recidivist murderers and rapists — but he has a few ulterior motives too, like inspiring an army of crusaders to take up his work.

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The fatal flaw of “John Doe” is its focus on ideas, rather than people. The protagonist’s victims are so cartoonishly evil they might as well be twirling their mustaches before being shot in the head. John Doe’s sanctimonious speeches are equally weightless; only his self-righteous fury registers. In this case, anger speaks louder than words.


“John Doe: Vigilante.”

MPAA rating: R for disturbing violent content and for language.


Running time: 1 hour, 33 minutes.

Playing: At Edwards Long Beach Stadium 26; AMC Puente Hills 20, City of Industry; AMC Norwalk 20.