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Criminal Law (1988)

Oldman plays a lawyer who defends a killer, but, soon after he wins he finds out that the killer is guilty.




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Cast overview, first billed only:
Ben Chase
Sean McCann ...
Karen Woolridge ...
Claudia Curwen (as Karen Wooldridge)
Rob Roy ...
Terrence Labrosse ...
Judge (as Terrence La Brosse)
Barbara Jones ...
Sandra Massina (as Barbara Ann Jones)
Jeannie Walker ...


A rising young attorney successfully defends a man accused of murder, only to have the same type of murder then happen again. Right away the previously defended man hires the attorney again, and although the attorney is quite certain that he is the killer, he agrees to again defend him... much to the consternation of his friends. However, he explains that by being his attorney he will be better able to catch the man in a mistake... and on this the rest of the film develops, with the killer playing a cat and mouse game with the attorney until, at last, they both must recognize that they are not all that different. Written by BOB STEBBINS <stebinsbob@aol.com>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


"Whoever fights monsters should see to it that in the process he does not become a monster." - Nietzsche. See more »


Crime | Thriller


R | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:





Release Date:

28 April 1989 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Der Frauenmörder  »

Filming Locations:


Box Office


$9,974,446 (USA)

Company Credits

Production Co:

,  »
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Technical Specs


Sound Mix:


Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
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Did You Know?


In 1992, real Canadian serial killers Paul Bernardo and Karla Homolka changed their legal name to "Teale" after the serial killer in this film. See more »


Fuel pumps display amounts in liters even though the location is supposed to be in Massachusetts. See more »


Martin Thiel: I love the rain... it washes everything away... makes it clean.
See more »


Referenced in Karla (2006) See more »

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User Reviews

Defense lawyer Gary Oldman seeks evidence against his client Kevin Bacon
9 October 2016 | by (United States) – See all my reviews

"Criminal Law" (1988) is a neo-noir that doesn't gel. It doesn't come together, at least not as coherently as it should have. The writer (Mark Kasdan) is mainly responsible, but the director (Martin Campbell) also is accountable both through an evident inability to shape the outcome and overdoing the materials directly within his scope. The movie still has some entertainment value, but its faults do detract significantly.

There is the kernel of a good story and movie here, and the acting does not let us down. Neither do the cinematography, production design or music.

There are scenes that are exaggerated beyond belief. The opening is in a heavy rain that's really too much. It's a crime scene. No one seems to have heard either of umbrellas or raincoats. Later there's a wildly exaggerated scene in which defense lawyer Gary Oldman accept an invitation at 11 p.m. to visit his client in a park through another downpour. The way in which he discovers a burned and mutilated female corpse and it rolls down a slope on him is absurd. His hysterical reaction is even more absurd. Also absurd and overdone is his idea of getting evidence against Kevin Bacon when, after gaining his acquittal, Bacon commits a new crime. In fact, the attachment of Bacon to his "friend" Oldman and the latter's apparent acceptance of this role doesn't really convince. The initial courtroom scene is much overdone in its dramatics.

Every so often a detective Tess Harper pops up and so does detective Joe Don Baker, but their activities are not well integrated into the story.

A better part of the movie is the depiction of Bacon's home and home life. This scenario has genuine interest. His mother (Elizabeth Shepherd) is a doctor who specializes in abortions, and she's a queer sort of person; she's quite cold, hard and unfriendly. Actress Shepherd does great in this role. I also found Bacon's acting to be spot on. Oldman was not well directed in this movie.

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