Detective Hervé Mercure (Rémy Girard) is watching the tape of his wife's murder thanks to a video taken by CCTV at the convenience store where it happened; it's not the first time he has done so, and it won't be the last. The next day, Dr Bruno Hamel (Claude Legault) is taking lunch with his family when he decides not to escort his young daughter to school and instead makes love with his wife, then falls asleep. Because he does this, he misses the phone call from the school asking where the girl is, and when one of her friends rings the doorbell with her homework, Bruno is right to be concerned...
If there was one genre of movies which made a comeback in the twenty-first century, it was the vigilante film, which if you cared to analyse it might have been down to the general mood of the world feeling useless in the face of increased terrorism on a high profile, global scale. Here was a Canadian entry into the style, which had been adapted by Patrick Senécal from his own novel, adopting an icy cool rendering of what could have been an especially emotive subject. It questioned as its central notion the idea that vengeance is good for the soul, but found it hard to make up its mind one way or the other.
Bruno is that man seeking revenge, but in such a way that he's not many steps away from the kind of villain you would get in a contemporary horror movie, you know the kind of criminal mastermind you only get in the cinema, except that we're initially supposed to find him sympathetic. And why not, as his daughter has just been raped and murdered, so we can understand he will be grief stricken and wishing to compensate for his loss in some way. That way he settles on is not the manner in which most bereaved relatives would go about things, and strains credulity as he manages to run rings around the police, led by Mercure.
The culprit is quickly identified, and it turns out he may have committed similar crimes before in other areas, so what Bruno does is kidnap him from the police van taking him to prison where he is meant to be awaiting trial. The doctor doesn't wish to hang about that long for what he sees as the killer's measly punishment of fifteen to twenty-five years, if that - this is in the world of the movie, in real life a serial killer with a high chance of reoffending would have been locked up and the key thrown away. Yet we're directed to view this as an authentic slice of drama rather than a pulse-pounding thriller, which leaves this curiously between two stools.
One stool is a serious examination of what justice consists of in a case such as this, and the other is a prurient torture effort where Bruno takes the killer (Martin Dubreuil) to a house in the woods and starts hitting him with a sledgehammer and worse, all over the course of the seven days of the title (originally Les 7 jours du talion) as the police close in. To add ambiguity as to how the unravelling sanity of Bruno is shown, once the story hits the news one of the murderer's previous victims' mother expresses disdain for such an act, so he actually kidnaps her too and flings her about a bit, goading her to take a whack at the man who ruined her life, which she refuses to do. To call this confused is an understatement, as it contributes little of worth even if you can work out whatever debate it was set up as part of, and can be best recommended to those who like their crime dramas grim and inconclusive.