You Can't Go Home Again...
Terence Chua | Singapore | 05/13/2001
(4 out of 5 stars)
"1814 - the war is over, and Sharpe, like many other unemployed soldiers, goes back to England to seek work. He is assigned to Yorkshire, where he was born, as head of local yeomen serving a corrupt cotton mill baron that oppresses the workers. As Sharpe discovers things are not as black and white as they seem, which side will he choose? The people he left 20 years ago, or the establishment that's fed him for all those years?This is an original story, not based on any of the novels, but it's interesting for a couple of reasons. One is that it firmly establishes that the TV Sharpe at least is born in Yorkshire - a given, because of Sean Bean's accent, but in the books he was supposed to be a Londoner. Another, more historical reason, is that it deals with the aftermath of the Napoleonic Wars in England, which Cornwell never did get around to doing. It is true that the countryside was filled with many now jobless soldiers, and also true that the Industrial Revolution was starting to make its presence felt. While the labour movement may not have started this early, it's still an interesting look at the times. But is it Sharpe?As much as I'm not fond of Sharpe's previous return to England (see my review of "Sharpe's Regiment"), I find myself liking this one, just to see Sharpe's backstory being developed. We find out more about how he grew up, his regret at not knowing who his mother was, and how uncomfortable Sharpe is with the war hero image that he's earned. As an added bonus, we get to see the incredibly beautiful and sexy Caroline Langrishe back as Lady Anne Camoyne, whose skills at political intrigue pull Sharpe out of the fire yet again. I'll even forgive them for adding the estranged Jane Sharpe to the mix, as the little minx actually shows a little fire of her own (the last scene with Sharpe here is particularly harsh).If the series had ended here it would have been a fine coda (albeit with a few loose ends). But we know it doesn't, not when there's the biggest of battles to fight. So it becomes just a little filler in between "Revenge" and that little contretemps at Waterloo..."
Sharpe's not the same
Megan Stoner | USA | 09/01/2002
(2 out of 5 stars)
"The formula for Sharpe's success is fairly straightforward: a good dose of military mayhem, strong (and often quirky) supporting characters, beautiful ladies (preferably a new one each episode), period locales and costumes, and - most importantly - a gorgeous hero, and you're almost guaranteed success. We all know Sharpe is brilliant as a swashbuckling Napoleonic soldier, out on the front lines (of the battlefield or the bedroom, it really doesn't matter...)But 'Justice' tampers with this formula, and the film suffers for it. It's one of the two Sharpe films (made in the 1990s for British ITV) that is based on an original script, not a Cornwell novel. Instead of his usual stomping-ground, the Peninsular Wars, Sharpe is at home in Yorkshire in 'Justice'. Here we have an innate problem: we feel most at home with Sharpe when he's out capturing Eagles or laying siege to French castles. Here, the military element is missing, so Sharpe must instead find enemies in the local robber-baron aristocracy (and his unprintable word of a wife, the harridan Jane, who ran off with a foppish aristocrat but unfortunately inherited a house right next door to where Sharpe is stationed).Add into the mix the tired cliche of The Unknown Brother Whom One Grew Up With But Did Not Realise Was A Relative, and what the viewer is left with is a rather unsatisfying exploit in the British countryside. Sure, Sharpe does eventually save the day (after a great deal of emotional bandying-about), but the bravado and adrenaline of the Continent is missing, and it shows."
What did Sharpe do during the break in the Napoleon Wars?
Lawrance M. Bernabo | The Zenith City, Duluth, Minnesota | 10/06/2004
(4 out of 5 stars)
"If there is one thing that I have learned from the first dozen adventures of Major Richard Sharpe (Sean Bean), maverick British officer from the Napoleonic Wars, it is that the only time our hero takes direct and final action against an enemy is when the script is not based on one of Bernard Cornwell's novels, which is the case with "Sharpe's Justice." In the previous outing, "Sharpe's Revenge," his target was the French spymaster Major Ducos, who had framed Sharpe for stealing Napoleon's treasure. But as Sergeant Harper (Daragh O'Malley) pointed out, Ducos was only the first half of Sharpe's revenge. Waiting fearfully in their bed back in England are Sharpe's errant wife, Jane (Abigail Cruttenden), and her lover, the impoverished Lord Rossendale (Alexis Denisof). However, even though Napoleon has been defeated and is mulling his fate on the island of Elba, Sharpe is still a serving office in His Majesty's Army and is posted to Yorkshire where the Mill workers are about to revolt.
This thirteenth of the fourteen Sharpe films is a strange one, and not just because Sharpe is in England and away from Wellington and the War. While it does touch on the wretched conditions that Hagman (John Tams) and the other soldiers of Wellington's army were confronted with when they returned home, it has a lot of soap opera elements. It turns out that Sharpe is from Yorkshire and the orphanage where he was raised is still in operation and Sally Bunting (Karen Meagher) who took care of him when he was a wee lad has some rather important news to relate about Sharpe's family. Then there is Truman (Philip Glenister), who was Sharpe's friend when they were in the orphanage, if you count fighting all the time as friendship.
Of course it would not be a Sharpe story if there was not some friction between our hero and some idiot officer, and this time around it is young Wickham (Douglas Henshall), who fancies himself quite a swordsman, a skill he developed safe in England. We all know that there is a difference between dueling in front of lords and ladies versus swordplay to kill or be killed, but Wickham will have to learn that on his own. There is intrigue going on with the mills to complicate everything, especially after the troops Sharpe commands disobey his orders and start slaughtering mill workers, and it is up to Sharpe, Harper and Hagman to help set things to rights.
Perhaps the biggest surprise of "Sharpe's Justice" is that the script by Patrick Harbinson (with additional material by John Tams) stripes away the last thoughts of affection we might have towards Jane Sharpe. It was not bad enough that she was persuaded to abandon her husband on the Continent, clean out his bank account, and be seduced by a penniless nobleman, this time around she decides to add insult to injury by being repentant about her actions. Ironically, Rossendale thinks more highly of Sharpe than does his own wife, so I think it is clear that the bed she had made is going to be a lonely one for her in the end. But the way she is presented in this penultimate film of the Sharpe series that is far less than she deserves.
There is only the last adventure, "Sharpe's Waterloo" to come in this fine series. It makes sense that the makers of this series would see a need to give more of a sense of the brief peace that existed while Napoleon was exiled on Elba. Next time around Wellington will face Napoleon for the final time and I have no doubt that Sharpe and Rossendale will somehow end up crossing paths on the battlefield. I will be sad to see the series end, but I know there are all those Cornwell novels out there to enjoy.
Sharpe meets reality head on
Peter Stines | Anahuac, Texas USA | 04/18/2002
(3 out of 5 stars)
"In this episode, Sharpe has some of the wind taken out of his sails and meets reality head on. For Sharpe and Harper it's not a hero's welcome ! Facing his past, Sharpe renews old friendships (and enemies) from his childhood, but the plot is NOT from one of Cornwell's novels, but was penned in part by John Tams (Rifleman Hagman) and it flows well. The characters are not too "cartoonish" and there is enough intrigue, skullduggery and romance to go around. There are some surprises and some predictable turns, but I was satisfied with the outcome."