I can understand why people who like this film do so, and why the submitted reviews so far are largely positive. But alas, as so often is the case, the director/writer conflates a cliched notion of capitalism with something entirely different: greed and power. There are so many errors in the way the actions of the antagonists convey to the viewer what the director wants them to think of as the evil capitalist monster, though again these are understandable given the events of recent decades, especially the 2008 crash.
Capitalism though, such as it was (embodied by the strict trading rules of Renaissance Vienna), died when the Fed was setup. Since then, and often long before by other means, founding principles have been eroded and now largely erased, those of free speech, property rights, don't lie and don't steal, ie. honesty in business and trade. It's what a genuinely free market should be, it's what the US was in large part founded upon, but that's not the nature of the world we have today, not for many years. It isn't a free market when governments can print money, borrow endlessly, steal from the unborn and by force transfer resources from those who work to those who do not; when they can rig the markets, prop up bad businesses which means bad decisions are never countered by relevant market responses, allowing events to someday repeat. Likewise in numerous banks, investment firms, insurance companies and global corporations, dishonesty is the order of the day, lies and deception, all for personal greed and power, people with close ties to the political realm, the mutual back scratching of the selfish.
So one might ask, why the capitalist label? Who benefits from such a narrative? There lies the irony: those who believe this perspective tend to nievely support collectivist ideologies (the left) that ultimately do little but sustain the very same kind of greedy and powerful people, the ones immersed in the machinery of state power. Their response to perceived ills is conditioned and planned, their votes exploited by the very same millionaires and billionaires. For decades, it really didn't matter who one voted for, the same globalist corporations and organisations benefited, at the expense of the little guy. The back & forth tag game between the same elites, squeezing the populace for resources.
Now the US has someone as a President whom neither side likes because they cannot control him. He actually cares about the people, though the media has spent 5 years trying their hardest to convince the populace that he is instead evil incarnate, despite all evidence to the contrary (I cannot recall a time when America has been involved in so little conflict around the world). I'll give that to the director, the political elements to the opening montage did cover both sides such as they were prior to 2014, which is good.
But in the context of how this film reflects contemporary issues in late 2020 as a certain election looms, barely weeks away, the basic idea of who or what the protagonist is fighting against takes on a particular sheen, in a way the average American will likely never have seen before. They have a choice between a man who has been under constant attack by the elites, and by the media controlled by those elites, for 5 years; or a man who has been very much a fundamental part of that political eite power structure for almost half a century, a man who belongs to a party supported by the same billionaires, globalists, Silicon Valley giants and mega corporations that have likewise gone to extraordinary lengths to erode personal liberty and free speech in recent years, especially during 2020. If one is not allowed to discuss facts or ask questions, then one should ask who makes those decisions, who stands to gain from the silence.
Movies of this kind are I infer intended to encourage the viewer to oppose what the director has presented as a particular concept labelled as capitalism, which is associated by the media with the right end of the political spectrum (a media controlled by the very elites the film villifies); people therefore will believe that the answer is to support the opposite end of the political spectrum, the left, the collectivist answer to perceived woes. In reality this is the great deception, the trick the elites have played for so long, convince the public of a lie and by so doing persuade them to tighten their own chains, indeed even make those chains. Endless propaganda of victhimhood, the divide and conquer of people so they fight each other instead of recognising their common foe: the power of the state and the elites who tag along for the ride. I doubt the director is aware of this reality though, most such people are too immersed in the Hollywood bubble. Frankly, I think "Falling Down" did a better job of conveying the nuance of societal exploitation. What's missing from these films is the broader view, the fact that a great many of those who had what became failed investements knowingly borrowed sums they knew they could not afford, taking on degrees of risk beyond all bounds of reason. Many people lied about their assets and financial positions to obtain further credit. Easy money, just pay with the card, buy more stuff, join the Black Friday queues for more consumer tech. It simply isn't true that the public bares no responsibility for these events, but few want to ask the hard questions.
Which brings me to why I left only 2 stars, my review title, and a question those who have watched this film and say they liked it or agreed with its implications should ask themselves: is it ok to kill people? Because in the end, that is the basic solution the director is presenting us with: lethal violence. We the viewer are supposed to empathise with the protagonist because of the events leading up to what he does, but we are not shown him acting in a manner that implies mental instability or unreason. In short, regardless of the portrayed events with his wife and job, we see a man who has simply become a cold, calculating, mass murdering thug. He isn't upset by what he does. If you the reader think murder is a justifiable solution to a perceived ill, then you cannot by definition complain when others decide they can do that to you, or if the state decides it too can use lethal violence. In the closing portion of the film, the main character shifts from targeting specific people to shooting anyone he can, even using grenades. So where has his original rationale gone with which we the viewer were supposed to identify? It lies in tatters; slaughtering people won't bring back his wife.
I did not though leave just one star because in other regards the film has merit; it is well shot, the tension is reasonably built, the music is not excessive, the background situation of the main character largely makes sense, etc. But I can't escape the base nature of the film's message. Like many of Tarrantino's movies, this one encourages the viewer to believe that murder, indeed mass slaughter, can be justified; if so, then those who say they like this film should never again claim they don't approve of infamous violent acts from history, the genocides in WW2 Europe, the slaughter in Rwanda, and so on down the ages. Murder is murder, period.
One cannot expect the world to have a chance of reforming for the better if the starting point is a knee deep river of blood. Far better to encourage better decision making, to enlighten, educate and inform, to promote the use of facts, evidence and reason, no matter how uncomfortable the relevant questions may be, or how upsetting the real history of the things we think we know about actually are.
Socrates wrote that wisdom is the beginning of the road discovered when a man realises he doesn't know what he thinks he knows. Most people make choices influenced by a legacy media system that cares only about clicks, views and ad revenue. The bubble is strong and its walls are thick. Most people spend their days unknowingly making those walls thicker.
Hence, in this turbulent time as a key day of decision approaches for all Americans, ask yourself: who is it the elites dislike? Who is it the media, controlled by those elites, villifies 24/7? If the message of this film is at least in part that said elites, the greedy rich and powerful, are the ones to blame, then perhaps the man who has stood against their interests for the last 4 years is just perhaps doing something right. This doesn't mean the man is in character a likeable individual, but he doesn't have to be; what matters are his actions, what he does, what he has done.
I am of course discussing this film in the context of current events, as I write this in the latter days of October 2020, but given the nature of the collectivist driven violence seen in numerous cities across the US this year, it is a valid lens through which to consider the film. We the viewer inevitably watch any film from a standpoint of contemporary applicability. The film's message seems to be it's ok to kill if such is deemed to be the "solution"; I would hope that a rational viewer would instead decide that such acts can never be the answer by any moral or ethical standard. Nothing is solved by anything the main character does, nothing is changed for the better. HIs story is clearly sad, intentionally so, but anyone who thinks his actions can be justified really should look in the mirror, because staring back at them they will find just a little bit of newly acquired evil.