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9 out of 10 people found the following review useful:

The real deal

Author: George Parker from Orange County, CA USA
27 December 2002

"Criminal Justice" is a journeyman quasi-docudrama TV flick which takes the viewer step-by-step through the US criminal justice system from crime to punishment. The film breaks down the whole let's-make-a-deal process using a Brooklyn N.Y. robbery/assault case as an example in which the players are Whitaker as the accused; LaPaglia as the public defender; Perez as the victim; and Gray as the Asst. D.A. The film plays no favorites as it takes a didactic and dispassionate look at the problems facing both sides in a case where justice must be dispensed even though no one, including the audience, knows who committed the crime. "Criminal Justice" is an earnest project which is more interesting than entertaining and is worth a look by anyone with an interest in the title subject. (B-)

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2 out of 2 people found the following review useful:

Most realistic depiction of the criminal justice system I've ever seen and I'm a lawyer and former Brooklyn prosecutor

Author: CineManic from United States
24 March 2011

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

The synopsis/summary and the other two reviews gave the plot and basics of the story. I wanted to add that, as a former Brooklyn Assistant District Attorney, I found this film the most realistic depiction of a criminal case I've ever seen. All of the elements were accurate, including the heavy caseloads of the public defender and assistant D.A., the difficulty of working with witnesses, and the mechanics of trial and pre-trial preparation. I have to disagree with the reviewer (oeoaa) who thought the movie copped out at the end or that it revealed that the accused, Jesse Williams, was the actual rapist. I felt that the ending was still ambiguous regarding the accused's guilt. What it did was show was that, when faced with the actual reality of a trial where a guilty jury verdict would have meant a much harsher sentence, the accused decides to take the lighter plea. This is a very common result. Defendants often wait until the last possible moment to see the strength of the prosecutor's case and whether the complaining witness (i.e. the victim) will show up or prove to be a poor witness.

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1 out of 1 people found the following review useful:

authentic courtroom drama

Author: pjlb2008 from United States
25 November 2012

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

As someone in the field, this story accurately depicts the process in the criminal justice system. I saw this story when it came out about 20 years ago. I recently saw it again. It is not dated at all. You have an all-star cast with well-developed characters. Perez is compelling as the victim. Whitaker presents as a sympathetic victim of the system. Lapaglia and Grey accurately portray overworked public servants. The judiciary is also overworked. They make it clear to the defendant that if he turns down the plea offer, and he is convicted, there will be grave consequences, not out of meanness but as a way to control their dockets. The case is presented from start to finish. The audience is given the information necessary to follow along. I liked the ambiguity as to whether Whitaker is in fact guilty. The end result is inevitable. As the Lapaglia character says at the end, "we all cut a deal." Lapaglia looks utterly helpless at the end of the movie, realizing he is caught in an endless loop of insanity. A thoroughly enjoyable movie from start to finish.

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Floored me! ! !

Author: ray_bradley from United States
1 September 2014

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

I've practiced law for 30 years. I've never seen any courtroom drama (except for perhaps "To Kill a Mockingbird") that comes anywhere close to this film in terms of brutal authenticity. The gut-wrenching hollowness that sinks into you with the deliberately unsatisfying ending is SO REAL and SO TRUE of a demonstration of how "the system" really functions, as to leave you in tears. The film is a beautifully crafted, unparalleled indictment of the fundamentally screwed-up justice system in this fundamentally screwed-up country. Whitaker is wonderful, and never gives away the truth of his character (whatever that might be). Anthony LaPaglia as the defense attorney is remarkable, as it the script. Rosie Perez's performance is of an intensity that is typical of the actress... she is never insincere, and, whether you're convinced by her obviously contrived sympathetic rantings or not, you WANT to believe her. The film is an un3expected gem with stunning performance all around

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1 out of 2 people found the following review useful:

A Plodding Process

Author: LeonLouisRicci from United States
15 August 2012

Dry account of the procedural path from crime to arrest to trial. This made for HBO movie is OK if not totally engaging.

The major fault does not lie in the execution of the realistic portrayal but in the realistic problem of the overloaded court system. It is not overstated or made to be entertaining and so we have a picture as plodding as the procedure.

The ending is bit of a letdown, however, as the stats show before the credits roll, ultimately right on realistic. It is that realism that handcuff this from being any more than a chronological account of an inherently involved process that leaves little to the imagination and a lot to the non-exciting plea bargain processes.

A good primer for pre law students but at best an easy homework assignment for the rest of us.

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0 out of 2 people found the following review useful:

Great film about the justice system...until the last 5 minutes

Author: oeoaa from United States
24 July 2008

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

"Criminal Justice" is an outstanding film, well-acted, well-paced, and one of the most disappointing films I've ever seen. You no doubt are aware that this review contains spoilers. How ironic since this film's ending spoiled everything that came before. Rosa Perez plays a hooker who is raped. Forest Whitaker is a street thug accused of the crime. It's unclear throughout who actually raped her. This film is like a documentary-style expose of how prosecutors and public defenders do their jobs. And it's all enlightening and entertaining. This film showed the kind of nuts-n-bolts grunt work pushed aside in other films looking to roll right through its plot. It's more of a behind-the-scenes film. The film would've worked just sticking to that. But then at the end it turns into --no offense intended--a "TV Movie of the Week" or "Lifetime" melodrama. Whitaker's revealed as the rapist in a cheesy courtroom scene with Perez starring him down while he tries to cop a quick plea-- a plea he refused earlier while declaring his innocence. It makes no sense--he was going to see her at the pretrial. Meanwhile, she was being prepared for the witness stand. So, why wait to take the plea at the pretrial? So the film could have some big dramatic moment. It didn't work. and before the credits role, a disclaimer about plea bargaining is shown. The ending didn't provide a twist, it was a cop out, a manipulation, and completely undermined an otherwise good movie.

TLD - Chicago

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