Criminal Law (1988)

R  |   |  Crime, Thriller  |  28 April 1989 (USA)
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Reviews: 21 user | 18 critic

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)
Ali Giron ...
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 <>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


A killer is back on the streets. The only one who can stop him is the lawyer who set him free. 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

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:


Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
See  »

Did You Know?


According to show-business trade paper 'Variety', a blue blackish mood motif appears as a color aesthetic throughout the 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

A big mess.
9 January 2012 | by (São Paulo, Brazil) – See all my reviews

Tangled in its superficiality, trying to be something more than just an ordinary thriller (and that's what this really is) about an psycho out of control "Criminal Law" wastes everything and everybody. Sadly, the movie couldn't warn us earlier, like 10 minutes from watching this and you would had the chance to know this might be an disaster and simply walk out of it. No, it goes quite well until the plot creates a mess bigger than the Everest and the K2 together (and director Martin Campbell, director of this, was in the latter in "Vertical Limit"), and worst, some of us want to climb it until the end but we can't. Why? Because we're not "trained" enough like the screenwriter from this flick. He and only he can decode this messy picture.

And to think of how good this could be! Gary Oldman plays an lawyer who just made his client Thiel (Kevin Bacon) free from jail, accused of rape and murder of a woman. Everybody's happy until a new wave of crimes similar to the one thrown on Thiel start off again. But this isn't like "Just Cause", the guy won't say he isn't guilty, rather than that he's gonna commit more and more murders AND will rub on his lawyer face (that lousy privilege between client and defendant) his next moves. It's up to this man to find a way to stop this criminal. Pretty exciting, isn't it?

"Criminal Law" becomes problematic when it decides to include random and uninteresting subplots about abortion, Thiel's family, and the lawyer's love interest and then it connects all of this parts together and mess it up real bad. It pretends to be real clever but it never succeeds. Take all that out and trade to saying something about ethics, difference between law and justice (they tried something about that but it wasn't enough), make a substantial dramatic film rather than 'to catch a serial killer' kind of thing and then we would have at least a decent movie, a relevant one.

By all means, this is a poorly executed film that only wasted good actors in giving them bad scenes to perform with. Being the script the worst thing of it, we must be ashamed to testify Kevin Bacon giving one of his worst performances of all, completely on the automatic pilot and ridiculous playing the villain; Oldman has good moments when he's not trying to sustain so many different accents into an American role. And why on Earth do the script have to include an strange sex scene with him awkwardly interspersed with him playing squash? Ridiculous!. Hope that the money received by them was worth it because they could've done better than this. If you enjoy both actors I'll highly recommend "JFK" and "Murder in the First" (coincidentally in all of three films their characters never get along). "Criminal Law" I can't and won't suggest.

A good idea and a wasted one. Big time! This is what happens when the hands get faster than the brain and the writer is not thinking of what's he doing. 5/10

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