Whether you agree or disagree, it’s been duly noted that the relationship between a father and daughter can sometimes take precedent over that of a father and son. Why? Mainly because a little girl’s perception of men is going to be heavily influenced by the first man she ever becomes familiar with, her father. The presence of a responsible father figure, or lack there of, can determine the kind of character and creed that a young woman takes on. Some guys overlook this fact and realize their mistake when it’s too late (Just listen to Nas’ Daughters).
But other men know this and take it upon themselves to set the example of what attributes a real man should possess. Responsible, provider, protector, supporter – fatherhood is much more than putting food on the table and clothes on their backs. It’s also instilling positive values and philosophies into the young and impressionable minds of your children.
In A Time To Kill, Samuel L. Jackson personifies the characteristics of the prototypical father. We understand why his spirit is wounded, and why his mind is teeming with vengeance when he learns that his 10-year-old daughter was brutally raped and nearly murdered.
Possibly the inspiration for Quentin Tarantino’s Django Unchained, Carl Lee Hailey (Jackson) took “the law” into his own hands and deep sixed two racist white men who viciously violated his 10-year-old daughter. Why not let the men have their day in court you ask? Well, when you live in Mississippi, you’re pretty sure that the guilty party will be treated like a Hilton in Los Angeles. So knowing that his daughters abusers would more than likely walk after a day of time served, Mr. Hailey got himself an M-16 assault rifle, ran up in the courthouse, and let off like it was the end of Biggie’s Warning video.
Naturally he’s brought up on charges, and the media, Ku Klux Klan, and black community are in an uproar over the events. The sentiment around the segregated community is that Mr. Hailey is going to spend the remainder of his life on the iron vacation or worse.
In this scene, Hailey takes the stand to explain what drove him to take vengeance on his daughters rapists, detailing, “All the while I kept hearing my baby say, ‘I called for you, daddy. When them men was hurting me, I called for you over and over, but you didn’t never come.’” Was it justification for his actions? Maybe. Was it understandable? Without a shadow of a doubt.
But the realest and most intense part of his testimony came when the prosecutor (Kevin Spacey) began baiting Mr. Hailey with questions that would spark him to display the lack of remorse he had for his actions as he was asked, “Did they deserve to die?” which prompted Hailey to yell back, “Yes they deserved to die and I hope they burn in hell!!” Throw a fist in the air because that right there was the gospel! How Samuel L. Jackson never got any Oscar recognition for this role is beyond me, but that’s just me.
In the end, any real father would and should understand why this scene – and movie all together – would strike a nerve and leave an everlasting impression. Watching a man that couldn’t protect his daughter go above and beyond to make damn sure he avenged her even if that meant losing his freedom and life in the process was awe-inspiring. This wasn’t just a man of principle, this was a father of reverence. Every little girl should be so lucky.