In Domestic Violence 2, the filmmaker, Frederick Wiseman’s focus is Tampa’s arraignment, misdemeanor, and injunction courts, where we get a glimpse of a few of these ”monsters.” But to Wiseman’s great credit, they prove not to be monsters at all; instead, they are almost invariably blank-eyed men, ill-educated and exhausted, justifying their hideous behavior with excuses and stories so implausible they’d even seem out of place on a David E. Kelley legal drama.
Wiseman, one of the last filmmakers of ”direct cinema” (”cinema verite,” as we used to say when he began his career with 1967’s ”Titicut Follies,” a slashing examination of a Massachusetts prison for the criminally insane), shows no sign of flagging energy in this, his 33rd film. The preening selfishness of this latest form of entertainment provides comforting fantasies and escapism to millions, but also utterly divorces us from what can go on in a real search for the ”right” guy or gal. At one point, an employee gives a tour of the Spring (a shelter in Tampa that provides temporary residence and long-term counseling for the abused — mainly women and children) to a group of nice elderly women, perhaps to solicit donations for the shelter. She tells them, ”The FBI, which is not a feminist organization, says one in two women will be physically abused” at some point in a relationship. The ladies audibly gasp. You may too — again and again.