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Criminal Law
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Reviews & Ratings for
Criminal Law More at IMDbPro »

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21 out of 29 people found the following review useful:

Definitely worth a look!

8/10
Author: lazylaurablue from UK
2 April 2006

I guess I'm not amongst the average viewers who found this a mediocre film. For sure it is slow-paced in places, but there are some fantastic scenes and great filmography. Oldman is the undoubted star and this is one of the few films in which I quite liked his character. He's a good actor. Bacon is mediocre in this, but the plot although nothing special does allow a great scene in which the baddie (Bacon) fights with Oldman's lastest flame and that is one very very good scene. She fights like a real woman would fight when cornered - feisty, no rules, all instinct, a real cornered rat. That is one cool scene! I reckoned the film was worth watching, just for that alone, but Oldman is good, very good. Questionable hair, but great acting.

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15 out of 21 people found the following review useful:

Great actors in not-so-great film!

5/10
Author: the amorphousmachine from Australia
18 December 2000

I really wanted to like this film because it had two of my favourite actors in it- Gary Oldman and Kevin Bacon. Their performance is great, as with some of Martin Campbell's (Goldeneye) direction, but it is the story-line that ruins this film comprising of some decent scenes but overall the plot is unbelievable and ridiculous.

See this film if you're a huge fan of either Gary Oldman and Kevin Bacon! 'Criminal Law' has got some good moments but it equally has it's tedious ones due to a poor storyline and unbelievable plot! Visually, director Martin Campbell has a unique style and the performances from it's two leads are very good and intense in parts, but unfortunately doesn't save this film! 'Criminal Law' gets a **1/2 out of *****!

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15 out of 22 people found the following review useful:

An Early Classic for Oldman and Bacon

8/10
Author: jim-862 from United States
2 August 2005

Criminal Law is a thriller of the first order.

Performances were outstanding by all. The Martin Thiel character, played to dizzy, frightening reality by Bacon, is chilling, to say the least.

The courtroom scenes were excellently written and performed. Oldman, as Ben Chase, acts at a high level as he brings his character through the torturous conflict between his professional ethics and his own humanity. Without, I might add, any British accent showing through, but with a clearly intentional Irish brogue when his blood is up. Nice work, that.

Mark Kasdan--author of Silverado and brother of writer/director/producer Lawrence Kasdan--writes a spare story with immediate suspense. He neatly puts attorney and client in a cat-and-mouse game, where Chase's silence, or betrayal, are equally dangerous for him, and for his love interest, Ellen, played well by Karen Young (Heat, 9-1/2 Weeks).

Elizabeth Shepherd plays the icy mother to perfection. Her blind devotion to her son, along with the absence of any physical display of emotion, are together at the root of the Thiel family dysfunction. This interpersonal rift makes the Martin Thiel character appear stiff and creepy and adds to the confusion and suspense of his innocence or guilt in the string of grisly sex murders that pepper this film.

The use of fire and rain throughout also enrages the imagination and adds clearly to the loathing an animal fear in Criminal Law. It is easy for the viewer to feel stalked or hunted in these parts of the movie--deliciously!

Tess Harper and Joe Don Baker have critical but minor roles, and do nothing to spoil the suspense of it. Both get well into their characters, though, somehow, Harper's Det. Stillwell and Shepherd's Dr. Thiel persona seem too similar...a minor overall script chemistry complaint, at that.

This is a thoroughly enjoyable movie, much better than most we see today almost 20 years hence. Yes, there are minor scripting flaws that I think the true movie-lover will forgive. Any fan of Kevin Bacon and/or Gary Oldman who hasn't seen this film is missing something terrific.

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16 out of 26 people found the following review useful:

If you miss this, you won't miss much.

5/10
Author: gridoon
8 March 2003

There are indications that the script has some interesting things to say about vigilante justice and law enforcement (among other subjects), but they're lost in a film that's much too long, too slow and too dark (when it's night, you can barely make out what's happening). The characters are very sketchy, and the plot has almost no surprises. Perhaps the film would've worked better if Oldman (who's over-the-top as the lawyer) and Bacon had switched roles. (**)

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7 out of 10 people found the following review useful:

A big mess.

5/10
Author: Rodrigo Amaro (rodrigo882008@hotmail.com) from São Paulo, Brazil
9 January 2012

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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7 out of 10 people found the following review useful:

Not a good outing for Oldman

4/10
Author: smatysia (feldene@comcast.net) from Houston
17 December 2007

In this film Gary Oldman plays a defense attorney, who was formerly a prosecutor. He is a bit tormented, but is more or less playing a regular guy rather than some sort of figurative or literal monster. Funny thing is, he doesn't quite pull it off. I guess you can't quite get to normal from there. Kevin Bacon was sufficiently creepy. The scene in the park was way too long with way too many false scares. And the odd sex scene with Oldman and Karen Young seemed to have come from a different movie, although the rest of the time Miss Young did just fine. This film suffers from oddness trying to cover up the predictability. And failing. Don't bother.

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7 out of 10 people found the following review useful:

Well-intentioned mess

Author: Steven Reynolds from Sydney, Australia
7 February 2002

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

A serial killer who avenges aborted fetuses by strangling their mothers; a lawyer who agrees to defend a man he knows is guilty just to ensure he is convicted. Both of these would make solid premises for a thriller and a legal drama respectively. But combining them, as is done here, proves much less successful. The resulting film is neither suspenseful enough as a thriller, nor well-plotted enough as a legal drama. Neither strand of the story gets the attention it deserves, making it necessary for a legal luminary to reappear in the last quarter to explain, from his deathbed, what we can presume is the point: vigilantism is not the answer; the law may be an imperfect reflection of justice, but it's a close as we can get. Thematically, this is a well-intentioned film. But it's undermined by a disjointed (or perhaps over-edited) script, and some violently hammy acting, especially from the usually excellent Oldman. Martin Campbell's strong visual flair and Jerry Goldsmith's ominous music – though blatantly stolen from Peter Gabriel's song ‘Rhythm of the Heat' – compensate, but nowhere near enough.

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13 out of 22 people found the following review useful:

Give Credit Where Credit is Due...

Author: studiojudio from Northeastern USA
2 December 1999

As the last review (by a Mr. J. Sommersby) states, there are some dramatic flaws with Martin Campbell's direction of this film, and, hence, the story line. But if it's got ANYTHING, it's got the magnificence of an early Gary Oldman performance, which is worth just about anything to see. Gary Oldman may play a character who is not very well developed, but he plays him with his usual genius. No matter what movie Gary Oldman is in, he improves it completely.

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5 out of 7 people found the following review useful:

Bodies In The Rain

7/10
Author: seymourblack-1 from United Kingdom
17 April 2015

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

A defence attorney suffers a crisis of conscience when he recognises his own responsibility for enabling a serial killer to be set free but when he's presented with an opportunity to put matters right, he realises that taking the necessary action would require him to act unethically and unprofessionally.

This psychological thriller focuses on the lawyer's ethical dilemma, his gradual recognition that the legal system only has a limited ability to deliver justice and his personal struggle to avoid becoming the kind of monster that he's determined to bring to justice.

Ben Chase (Gary Oldman) is the defence attorney who's prepared to use any kind of cynical ploy to get a "not guilty" verdict for his clients and after using one such manoeuvre to discredit the value of eyewitnesses in a murder case, earns an acquittal for Martin Thiel (Kevin Bacon). After the trial, Thiel gives indications that he was actually guilty and a short time later telephones Chase to arrange a meeting at a nearby park. When Chase goes to the arranged meeting place, he's horrified to discover the body of a woman who'd been raped and murdered.

Police detectives Mesel (Joe Don Baker) and Stillwell (Tess Harper) attend the crime scene and are openly disdainful of Chase who they blame for returning the murderer back into society. When it seems that Thiel might need legal representation for a second time, Chase agrees to defend him so that he can make sure that he's held accountable for his crimes. This unethical approach isn't entirely feasible however, and so Chase tries to get Thiel to incriminate himself. In trying to do this, the two men become closer and Chase starts to recognise certain similarities between them that he finds disturbing.

In "Criminal Law" it's interesting to see the changes that the ultra-conceited Chase goes through as he becomes filled with doubt about what he's doing and takes advice from his mentor, Professor Clemens (Michael Sinelnikoff) who advises him about the shortcomings of the justice system by saying that "the law is the dark shadow of justice". Similarly, the significance of the first part of the Nietzsche quotation at the start of the movie ("Whosoever fights monsters should see to it that in the process he does not become a monster") also becomes apparent in an interesting way as the relationship between the two men becomes closer and the mind games begin.

The main problem with this movie is that the interest that's established in the effective first act gradually dissipates as the whole undertaking loses coherence as it progresses. More pleasingly though, the issues it addresses do provide some good material for a thriller and Gary Oldman and Kevin Bacon are excellent in their roles

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3 out of 4 people found the following review useful:

Tantalizing possibilities unrealized.

5/10
Author: Robert J. Maxwell (rmax304823@yahoo.com) from Deming, New Mexico, USA
17 January 2010

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

A woman police officer, Tess Harper, shoots a running man square through the head at a distance of fifty feet with a short-barreled revolver. Now, if you can believe that, you will get more out of this movie than I did.

It's not an especially BAD movie, in the sense that at least it's not insulting. And in fact the story had real potential. Gary Oldman of the droopy face is a high-end Boston attorney hired by filthy rich Kevin Bacon, who has been accused of serial murders involving diapers stuffed in the victims' mouths. (Don't ask.) Oldman is a Harvard graduate and therefore brilliant. He saves Bacon's bacon, to general rejoicing.

Without too much further ado, he finds that Bacon was guilty after all when the murders begin all over again and Bacon practically confesses. The problem is that there is no way to convict Bacon, and Oldman, out of an excess of chagrin, takes it upon himself to investigate the new cases and try to find inculpatory evidence.

The acting is pretty good on everyone's part. The dialog has some startlingly effective lines. The performers look and speak as one would expect such characters to -- except that the murderer, Kevin Bacon, stares ghoulishly at every dramatic moment. If he blinked his eyes AT ALL during the movie, I must have been blinking myself.

I don't know if that unblinking, murderous stare was Bacon's idea. I hope not. I suspect it was at the least encouraged by the director, Martin Campbell, because the fiend who is unable to nictitate is a cliché -- and the movie is full of clichés.

That life-saving miraculous shot by Tess Harper is only the climactic example. One of the most overused stings has an innocent person creeping about in a dark room, searching for something he or, more often she, shouldn't be looking for. All is quiet. We tremble along with the intruder. Then a clash of dissonance in the score, and a hand reaches in from out of the frame and grabs the person's shoulder, or she bumps into a figure standing in the shadows, or she hears a noise and whirls her flashlight around to reveal the face of a threatening intruder, or a pair of arms wrap around her neck from behind. I counted at least four uses of this hoary device before I stopped looking for them.

I'll mention just one other. A terrified man stumbles through a public park during a downpour, trips over some brush, rolls helplessly down the side of a hill, and comes to rest on a mutilated human body.

Enough.

It's too bad, because there are signs of intelligence glimmering through this hackneyed murk. Your Honor -- ladies and gentleman of the jury -- I direct your attention to the anecdote told by the dying librarian in the hospital, the little parable about Justice Brandeis and the shadow of the law. Corroborating evidence, which I now introduce as Exhibit Number Two, is provided by Kevin Bacon's fable, the one in the punt, of the man caught whipping God's dog. Nobody brings up Jeremy Bentham's utilitarianism versus Kant's categorical imperatives, although they might have, but thank God they didn't.

A shame it was all thrown away in the service of titillating the audience through the use of commercial tricks.

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