Cold Justice is a 2013 psychological horror film directed by M. Night Shyamalan, based on the Stephen King novel of the same name, and stars Julia Winter, Amber Beattie, Winnona Ryder, Bruce Willis, Zachary Quinto, Liam Neeson and Bonnie Wright. It surrounds two sisters who are the sole survivors of a vicious terrorist attack, and how they become involved in the disturbing activity of a psychotic vigilante who wishes to avenge their parents.
On a budget of $20 million, the film was a box office success in grossing £187, 490, 054 worldwide. It received initially mixed reviews upon release, but after being released in wider cinemas to more understanding audience it was acclaimed by audiences and critics for its complexity, the performances of Winter, Beattie and Quinto, and Shyamalan's direction. Amber Beattie received an Oscar nomination for her performance, and won Best Actress, whilst Julia Winter received nominations for Best Heroine, Best Actress and Best Heroine in a Horror Movie.
Shelly and Trinity Wargrave wake up in a hospital from tear gas recovery, where a medic informs her that their house was attacked at Thanksgiving by a group of terrorists. The terrorists, hungry for the massive fortune and inheritance the family possessed, attacked the family in the middle of their dinner and, over the three days of their captivity, their father was beaten to death by one terrorist and their mother raped and murdered by the other, and the rest of their family present were also killed before the police arrived, led by Sergeant Blake Jones. Both of them are visibly horrified by being told this, and Shelly goes into a vicious seizure. When she recovers, she is comforted by a tearful Trinity.
Medical reports diagnoses Shelly with amnesia, and over the following seven years she receives several amnesia attacks and is under inspection. Trinity, meanwhile, is trying to care for Shelly in the repeated absence of their guardian, Katie Peterson. At school, Shelly is reported to have violent behaviour and antisocial tendencies. Meanwhile, each of the terrorists have left prison, and it is obvious to the public that this is due to court incompetence and their own good behaviour - as a result, the terrorists have fundamentally decent lives. Meanwhile, the press continuously harangue the Wargave sisters constantly and as a result they both suffer from sleep apnoea.
A silhouetted figure attacks the bungalow of Gene Fisk, one of the terrorist, and attacks him, killing his present girlfriend and locking him inside a glass cubicle. The man releases a snuff film on YouTube, identifying the man and that he was responsible for hacking into the family fortunes of the Wargraves during the attack - in lieu of this, the figure has the family fortunes, in cents, poured into the cubicle, suffocating Fisk. The figure explains that the comfortable life Fisk lived was undeserved, and that this 'execution' will be the first of several attacks on the terrorists, unless they receive harsher punishments than they originally were given.
This video causes a public uproar and several news reports explain that people are drastically considering targeting the terrorists. Julia watches the video obsessively and begins to understand its meaning, but her compassionate nature causes conflict with this understanding. Katie discovers her watching the film and accosts her furiously. She reports this to the frequently-visiting Blake, who has been making routine inspections of the house to monitor the children's behaviour. Katie and Blake, while the children are absent, begin dating outside of their work parameters. Their relationship is observed by surviving cousin of the sisters Kevin, and once he tells the sisters about this they begin to tease Katie about this.
The sisters, in an attempt to repair their relationship with one another, go out to a game arcade and eat at a McDonald's. During the night out, the sisters bond for the first time in three years, but this is ruined when a masked reporter gatecrashes their meal and taunts them with the survival of their terrorists. Shelly attacks the reporter, which is caught on camera and becomes an internet sensation. The sisters are publicly ostracised for their behaviour, which causes immense stress in both of them, and pressures Katie into trying to distance herself from them. The next night, the home of Kane Goodman is attacked, during which his wife is shot in the groin.
Another snuff film is released, with the killer detailing that Kane raped and murdered Mrs. Virginia Wargrave, which is the reason his wife was killed in such a way - Kane is found dead, hanging from a makeshift noose (Made of bicycle's chains) from a diving board. Sympathisers of the terrorists publicly clash with sympathisers of the Wargraves. Kevin publicly announces that he objects to the killings, and the sisters are reluctantly pulled on stage to support this view. During the news reel, Shelly suffers another amnesia attack and forgets the events of the last week. However, evidence is found on Kane's body that implicates Shelly, who is arrested reluctantly by Blake on suspicion of double-murder.
While held in police custody, a prisoner attempts to rape Shelly and she hospitalises him by repeatedly pounding his neck with her fists. The evidence is proved to be fabricated, and she is released but put under psychiatric attention for her attack on the prisoner. Meanwhile, while on a date, Blake collapses and dies in front of Katie, and it is revealed that he died from poisoning - his police badge had been replaced with a thallium replica, and according to the autopsy he had been subjected to the poison for two years. The silhouetted killer releases another snuff film, showcasing Blake's corpse and claiming responsibility, since Blake didn't gun down the terrorists when he had the chance.
During the night, a man knocks on the door and when he reveals himself Trinity recognizes him as Bill Spiner - the leader of the terrorists. He was released the earliest, and only hours ago he was attacked by the killer and his right leg broken. He wants them to hide him until the killings die down, but both sisters are violently reluctant for this to happen for obvious reasons - Katie persuades them to let him stay for a day. During the night, Shelly is surprised when Bill solemnly apologises for what he did to them and that he was released after publicly announcing his aversion to Christianity. Their neighbour Roxanne Williams spots him entering the house and tells Kevin, who reveals the camera equipment used to make the snuff films, suggesting that he is the killer.
The killer proceeds in his activity by attacking and kidnapping Roxanne and locked in her basement. In the next snuff film, the killer announces that she was the one who told Bill Spiner about the family fortune during a drinking game, and was thus responsible for the terrorists more substantially than the others. The killer reveals an elaborate contraption, in which seven shotguns are arranged to aim for Roxanne's stomach and chest. Then, the killer challenges the police to try and save her, which they can since the contraption is set on a two-hour timer. There is a public vote as to whether or not Roxanne is worth saving, in which both Shelly, Trinity, Katie and Bill vote yes.
The police lead a rescue mission into Roxanne's house, where they discover her in the cellar. However, the moment they open the door a switch is thrown and one of the shotguns, aiming for Roxanne's stomach, shoots her. When the police try to dismantle the contraption, it automatically kills Roxanne and releases a poisonous gas into the basement, with a recording device in the walls, in the killer's voice, stating 'Nice try, America's finest. You've failed again, miserably'. The entire incident is recorded as another snuff film and released, and when she sees it Shelly destroys the television with a paperweight in a vicious rage and Trinity comforts her.
The killer attacks the Wargraves' house and attacks the sisters, kidnapping Bill and taking him away. A live snuff film is prepared, in which Bill is tied to a homemade electric chair and tortured. Shelly recognizes the background as that of the local cafe and runs to save Bill. She arrives in time to see Bill killed by the electric chair while the killer, wearing a hood, taunts him. She attacks the killer, unmasking him as Kevin, and he knocks her out. She wakes up tied to a chair, and Kevin standing over her with a gun aimed at her. She secretly dials Katie and thus the conversation that follows is recorded and she subtly reveals their location to Katie. Katie arrives and, after a struggle with Kevin, shoots him in the heart. However, Trinity appears from behind Shelly and drops a mirror on Katie, killing her, before accusing her of trying to replace their parents in their lives.
Trinity reveals to Shelly that she was the killer the whole time, and that she was in league with Kevin - they were both traumatised by the deaths of their parents and were horrified that the people responsible hadn't received harsher punishments due to the incompetence or corruption of the court. Shelly is horrified by her sister becoming such a monster and accuses her of disgracing their parents' memory with bloodshed. Trinity, crazed in her belief that what she had done was right, defends that, if Shelly were the eldest then she would have felt and done the same. Shelly baits her sister into leaning close enough that they are nose to nose, then headbutts her and wrestles free of her bondage.
Shelly calls the police and reveals her location to them, and explains what has been happening halfway through calling them, Trinity recovers and attacks Shelly. The two sisters fight through the street, savagely injuring one another, and Shelly tries to run from her sister as she hears police sirens approach. Flying into a rage, Trinity steals a bicycle from one of the bike racks and chases her sister. Shelly reaches a bridge over a river and vaults into the river to escape. Trinity, blinded by her rage, tries to follow her, but the bike slams against the bridge and propels Trinity over the edge. She lands head-first on the riverside and is killed when the impact breaks her neck.
The police arrive and discover the dead bodies and follow the evidence of the fight to the bridge, where they find a violently convulsing Shelly cradling her sister's body. During a visit to a psychiatrist, Shelly, once reminded of the events of the last night, claims that she cannot remember. Once the psychiatrist prompts her, she remembers (She hears Trinity's voice repeating her words while Shelly was her prisoner) and uncontrollably sobs. The psychiatrist embraces her and comforts her, assuring Shelly that everything is going to be alright.
- Julia Winter as Shelly Wargrave, the younger of the Wargrave sisters who suffers from multiple amnesiac attacks, and becomes a suspect in the investigation into her parents' revenge. She is a compassionate, introverted person who is struggling to recover from her loss.
- Amber Beattie as Trinity Wargrave, the elder of the Wargrave sisters who suffers from borderline personality disorder and paranoid schizophrenia who orchestrates the violent revenge on her parents' deaths.
- Winnona Ryder as Katie Peterson, the Wargrave sisters' legal guardian who takes care of them after their parents' deaths. She is under intense stress from the sisters' erratic behaviour and simply wants to be left at peace from the whole affair. Trinity kills her by dropping a mirror on her for trying to replace their parents.
- Bruce Willis as Blake Jones, a police officer who takes special interest in the sisters and makes regular checks on the house to monitor the behaviour of both sisters. He is killed by Trinity for not gunning down the terrorists when he had the chance, by having his police badge replaced with a thallium replica, which poisons him.
- Zachary Quinto as Kevin Wargrave, the older cousin of the sisters who is on a vigilante killing spree to murder the terrorists who were responsible for his uncle and aunt's deaths. He is in league with Trinity to do so, and his open vigilante status protects her identity as the true killer.
- Liam Neeson as Bill Spiner, the leader of the terrorists who attacked the Wargrave family at Thanksgiving. On account of good behaviour and a corrupt municipal court, he is given ten years in prison and parole, but is vengefully killed by Trinity via electric chair.
- Bonnie Wright as Roxanne Williams, the neighbour of the Wargraves who told Bill Spiner about the family fortune, thus being substantially responsible for what followed. She is killed by Trinity by 'firing squad' when seven rifles are remotely fired into her chest.
- Liev Schreiber as Kane Goodman, one of the terrorists who raped and murdered Mrs. Wargrave, and was the first to be released because of good behaviour and aversion to Christianity. Trinity hung him by his own bicycle chain from a diving board.
- Michelle Monaghan as Christina Goodman, Kane Goodman's wife who is shot in the groin with a shotgun in lieu of Kane raping Mrs. Wargrave before murdering her.
- Adam Driver as Gene Fisk, one of the terrorists who downloaded the family fortune during the terrorist attack, and was released due to court miscalculations. He is killed by Trinity via having the family fortunes, in cents, being poured on to him and suffocating him to death.
- Julie Bowen as Mrs. Virginia Wargrave, who was raped and murdered by Kane Goodman during the terrorist attacks.
- Luke Roberts as Mr. George Wargrave, who was beaten to death in front of his children by Bill Spiner.
- Vanessa Hughens as Psychiatrist, who comforts Shelly after the ordeal.
Cold Justice was initially met with mixed reveiws upon release to small American audiences, criticised for its depiction of sibling relationships. Later on, once it was exposed to a much wider audience, it received widespread acclaim, especially for Shyamalan's direction, the film's performances, suspense, darkness, screenplay and intensity. The film's consensus on Rotten Tomatoes reads 'The film is an expertly-crafted psychological masterpiece with performances so realistic it feels more like a frightening documentary than a horror film'. It was also praised by Stephen King himself, who acclaimed Winter and Beattie's performances for their realism. Also, Shyamalan claimed he was pleased with the film.
The performances of Winter, Beattie and Quinto were applauded, and the chemistry between Winter and Beattie was met with universal acclaim. Quinto was viewed by one interviewed viewer as 'So realistic that you actually believe that he's the man behind it, which makes the impactful punch of the truth more powerful', and many critics believed that Quinto excelled himself more than expected in the film. Julia Winter and Amber Beattie's performances were acclaimed because of their chemistry in comparison to that of actual siblings, and critic Tom Allen remarked that 'These two mesh together so well that, in every scene they are in, you feel for them like nothing you've ever felt for them' and they called the final fight between the two 'truly heartbreaking'.
Psychiatrists widely praised the film for its perfect portrayal of psychological disorders and mental issues, and how they affect people and situations.
During the final confrontation, Julia Winter received several bruises to her arms, but commented 'When I consider these bruises, then see the final result of the film, I realise that the blows were worth taking because it makes me feel for the film even more'.