When a judge is charged with rape, Arthur Kirkland is forced to defend him. Kirkland has had problems with the judge in the past, including one incident when the judge wrongly sentenced his client Jeff McCullaugh because of a technicality. Kirkland faces a moral and legal dilemma. Written by
Melissa Portell <email@example.com>
According to director Norman Jewison's audio-commentary, in legal circles the film was criticized for its portrayal and depiction of legal eagles, lawyers and judges. See more »
As Kirkland's property is being returned to him upon his exit from jail on a contempt charge, the handle on his briefcase changes positions. As the property officer slides a receipt for his property towards Kirkland, the handle is up. As Kirkland signs the receipt, the handle is down. The scene ends with the handle being up. See more »
Al Pacino's comically baffled expression at the very last shot of this film says it all, really. But is he baffled by Jeffrey Tambor's silly toupee, or by the fact that he has no idea what kind of movie he was just in? Not to worry - he's not alone. Director Norman Jewison doesn't know either, and neither does the audience.
...And Justice For All, according to many reviews, is supposed to be some sort of Catch-22-ish satirical black comedy, but if so then it fails miserably, since it's never as funny or outrageous as that, and the scenes that force the film's messages - and those are excruciatingly obvious - are melodramatic and heavy-handed. The comedic scenes seem to be there more to relieve the tension cause by the more dramatic scenes, but instead they just confuse. Most of the time the message we get is that very simply, law doesn't work, and always with tragic results - innocent men rot away in prison, guilty powerful men go unpunished, and guilty evil men walk free and kill again.
Pacino was famed for his subtle performances throughout the 70's - nobody else could have made the slick transition from naive idealism to calculated evil that he achieved in The Godfather, or in Dog Day Afternoon. But here no trace of subtlety can be found. And although the over-the-top performance fits right in at the final scene, and indeed makes for a very memorable and often quoted couple of minutes, it makes every other scene - especially the ones Pacino's character shares with his grandfather or his dull, unconvincing love interest - fall flat. Partially it's a good thing, because it paved the way for his performance in Scarface - which is one of the best, most glorious examples of complete, shameless overacting ever. But here it just doesn't work. It's not Pacino's fault, though, or Jewison's; It's just a poorly conceived story, and with something like that, all the talent in the world couldn't help.
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