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This movie is based on actual events that occurred in my home town. While I wasn't old enough to have experienced them first hand, I was told of them by my professor in college, who had first hand experience himself. The movie was definitely accurate...right down to the characters' themselves (changed names of course). It left me pondering my own ethical behavior, all the while haunting me with gut wrenching question of what I would have done in the same situation. It was nice to see that Hollywood didn't massacre this "hometown" story. Definitely a movie for individuals of "higher (critical) thinking" and those who enjoy true to life movies.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
It was shocking to see the violent reactions of the townspeople to the
defense attorneys. But this film is based on a true story, and I
understand that the film does not exaggerate the facts.
According to an article in the 2007 ABA Journal: The defense attorneys, Armani and Belge, "received widespread support from the legal profession, but in the court of public opinion, they didn't fare much better than their client." They were widely reviled by non-lawyers. Their law practices withered. They received hate mail and death threats. Longtime friends stopped speaking to them. They had to move out of their homes. Belge eventually gave up his law practice. Armani suffered a heart attack. A grand jury investigated both lawyers and indicted Belge. The case against Belge was dismissed in 1975. Finally, a New York State Bar ethics committee upheld the lawyers' conduct, explaining that client confidentiality promotes proper representation by encouraging the client to fully disclose all relevant facts including the commission of prior crimes. In 2006, Armani received a distinguished-lawyer award from the Onondaga County (N.Y.) Bar Association.
It would be unfair to compare this film (and the book it is based upon) to Harper Lee's artistic classic, "To Kill a Mockingbird." But the comparison is unavoidable. To the film's credit, this film accurately portrays the public pressure, condemnation, hatred and violent reaction to the lawyers' representation of their awful and thoroughly unredeemable client. And to Armani's and Belge's credit, they were the real-life "Atticus Finch." Their painful ordeal, but heroic conduct, will be studied in law schools for many years.
Good tale of a low life serial killer who tears a town apart when he kills several local teens. The citizens are further incensed when they find his attorneys are suppressing evidence. Nicely done; I particularly enjoyed Coleman's part as the jaded, drunken criminal lawyer.
Although the premise of the story was good, I thought that the attitude of the people in the town toward the attorney (Peter Coyote) who was defending the killer was too harsh. The good citizens acted as if they had never heard of lawyer client priviledge. They were ready to drum the lawyer out of town because his client revealed where two of his victims' bodies were located during a priviledged conversation. Everyone, including the DA, who certainly should have known better, vilified the attorney for not saying where the bodies were. It might have more believable if it were just the victims' families who were so angry, but everyone in the town was so outraged that it made me think they were all dolts. It could have been a good movie.
It may very well be that 'Sworn To Silence' was based on true events, but that doesn't necessarily mean it's going to result in a good movie. Lack of excitement can very well be forgiven, if the story compensates on other levels. Sadly, this is not really the case here. It was fun seeing a young Liam Neeson playing a somewhat dim-witted murderer. Being pretty much caught red-handed, it's up to Peter Coyote to defend him in court. Nothing really significant happens throughout the film, aside from Coyote & his partner discovering the bodies of two previously murdered girls. The production values are very cheap (even for a made-for-TV movie) and, I can't put it any other way, the whole film comes off as fairly boring most of the time. The only merits 'Sworn To Silence' has, are above standard dialogues and the dilemmas Coyote is faced with throughout the film. You can sit through it, but it's not really worth bothering.
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