Murder in the First (1995) Poster

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8/10
One Of The Best Performances Of The Decade
bwziegler28 February 2006
How Kevin Bacon didn't get an Oscar, let alone a nomination is beyond me. What is wrong the the Academy? it was a better performance than Tom Hanks in Forrest Gump, I was moved to tears by the man, it's a heartbreaking performance. He should have been nominated for 'The Woodsman' as well. Great actor. But i have to say it's not an easy watch, and the violence is relentless, it reminds me of the time i once witnessed a boy get bullied at school, it just never ended and i remember feeling awful for the poor chap, the fact that it's a true story just makes me shudder. Gary Oldman gives one of the most hateful performances i've ever seen while Slater shows depth as the lawyer trying to get him out of prison as early as possible.
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9/10
Terrific!
ferretinns200121 April 2006
This is clearly Kevin Bacon's best performance. It's a shame he was not nominated for an academy award for his role. A truly emotional movie that ranks among the top Alcatraz movies made! Gary Oldman also puts in a very solid performance. Christian Slater plays a youthful, inexperienced attorney to perfection.

In showing another side of Alcatraz the movie breaks away from typical escaped based Alcatraz films. While "Escape from Alcatraz" may still be the top movie in this topic area, "Murder in the First" provides a new twist that involves a different type of drama. Kevin Bacon was surely jilted for not being nominated here!
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9/10
Six Degrees Of Kevin Bacon--(Maybe even 7 or 8)
ween-36 June 2004
As Wayne would have it---"DENIED!!"

how this film escaped the attention of Oscar and Globe voters is one of the great Hollywood mysteries of our time...if Bacon ain't Oscar meat here, i don't know what is...an absolutely brilliant performance in the kind of role the voters usually jump all over at ballot time...ya really gotta wonder...

conspiracy theories aside, this is one helluva flick...besides our pal Kevin, there's outstanding work from Christian Slater, Gary Oldman, and everybody's favorite drill sergeant, Lee Ermey...Moe Greene's kid, Marc Rocco, gets a great period feeling economically...solid work by the wardrobe and make-up units...this film deserved a much better fate at the box office and at awards season in '96...if you haven't seen this one yet, you're missing a real gem...
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8/10
A Terrific, Inspiring and Entertaining Movie.
William Arvay16 March 2006
I had not heard of his movie before. I caught it in mid-broadcast on cable, while channel surfing, eleven years after its release, and after the first few moments, decided to watch it to the end. It is now one of my favorites, right up there with "To Kill a Mockingbird." This film succeeds both as star turns and as an ensemble piece. But more importantly it succeeds in portraying American society in the 1930s as a whole, and involving the audience emotionally in both the the greater social issues as well as the smaller, more tender, personal issues. Despite its sensitivity, it is far from a chick flick. Despite it's theme of violence, it is far from a macho action flick. It is a courtroom thriller based on real events, and it is worth watching more than once.

The script writing and direction are calculated to be moving, and they succeed. Every actor in the film, every detail of the art direction, every camera angle plays on your heart and sense of moral indignation. To do so successfully, as I think this movie does, is the definition and purpose of art.

Kevin Bacon shows the most range in his film that I have ever seen from him. His physical performance was very demanding, his character work even finer. His chemistry with each actor in every scene is both bold and subtle, raw and complex. He reminds me of DeNiro's performance in the "Cape Fear" remake.

Christian Slater's character provides the viewer's point of view in the film, and he plays with great emotion and passion, and yet with a touch of reserve and detachment. I am strongly reminded of Kevin Costner's performance in "The Untouchables." Needless to say, Gary Oldman is a master at his craft, and always amazing to watch. Every character Oldman plays is memorable, and the antithesis of type-casting. His portrayal of the warden in this film is a brilliant balance of a socially acceptable monster.

This movie has received a lot of criticism for portraying historical facts inaccurately, and for taking sides in a political debate. I would remind the open-minded viewer that "To Kill A Mockingbird" also took great liberties with the facts of the historic court case on which it was based (there were six accused rapists, not one; the person on whom Atticus Finch was based was in reality the judge and not the defense attorney, etc.) and emphatically took sides in the even more hotly contested political debate over racial discrimination in America. Both films were based on real life, but neither claimed to be a documentary. Whether you resent historical tampering and political statements for dramatic impact is something only you can decide for yourself. Personally, I support both "To Kill A Mockingbird" and "Murder in the First" as films whose merits outweigh their flaws.

In short, this movie is worthy of your time, and will reward you, whether you want entertainment thrills, a good popcorn movie, a morally inspiring story or the appreciation of a well-crafted piece of work. It falls a little short of "The Shawshank Redemption," but not far. Despite what this or any other review says, start this movie without any preconceived notions, and just go along for the ride. I think you will be surprised, happy and satisfied.
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10/10
What about the music?
rob-14192 March 2006
This film was excellent. Yes it's true that it wasn't as factually accurate as it could have been, but judged purely as a drama, it was film making at its best - superb acting, directing and cinematography. However, I would especially like to commend Christopher Young's amazing music score. It was haunting, beautiful and emotive, and contributed so much to the feel of the movie. Two scenes where the music was used to great effect: the tracking shot after Henri attacked the other prisoner, and the setting up of the court room then dissolving into an aerial shot of Alcatraz. Thank you to all concerned for making this great and moving picture - it makes me want to go and make movies!
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9/10
A Great Movie About Life in the Joint
caesarmoridon31 December 2006
Warning: Spoilers
I found this movie appalling and that is what made it so great. The prison was a dump, this mans life had been taken by the system and he is scarred, sad and destroyed. No matter what your views of the legal system, this film made you hate prison and the destruction of the soul of those who are caught within it. It shows a man deprived of every form of decency and respect; a truly sad and pathetic character who you hate and love at the same time. Death is a gift to this sad man played by Kevin Bacon. In all The cast is terrific, the scenes are intense and the movie is a total winner. I agree with others who have stated how can this have not been an Oscar contender. Kevin Bacon and Christian Slater are perfectly matched in this film. You believe Kevin's Character Henri Young when he says to Christian Slaters Character James Stamphill: "Your my best friend Jimmy. It is tragic ,yes; it is depressing, yes; It is gross, yes; It is a great film without a doubt. I give it 9.5 out of 10 but don't see the half star. Go see this film if you want to see great acting. PS.. Gary Oldmans character is also very very good. A must see if only once!
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9/10
A story of friendship and the tender mercies we all take for granted.
rondine6 March 1999
This appears to be a prison movie about the injustices inflicted upon a hapless inmate named Henri Young. In reflection it is actually about friendship and the every day things we take for granted. At the heart of this movie, Kevin Bacon's character, Young, asks Christian Slater's character, Stamphill, if they were on the outside, would they be friends? He answers without much thought, yes, of course. Then Bacon says, I could've been like you. He sees in this young attorney, his own life & what it might have been if not for $5. He asks Slater, did you ever steal $5? Of course he had, from his brother, who told him never to do it again. Henri Young's punishment was to go to a federal penitentiary where upon trying to escape, he was "sentenced" or left to die, for 3 long years in solitary confinement. Young's character has never been with a woman and he's 28 years old. In a very moving scene (wisely done without music, although the music in this movie is beautiful) Stamphill brings a woman into the cell in an attempt to give him a few moments as a man. Unfortuantely, he cannot even bring himself to enjoy this - the look on his face will absolutely make you break down and cry. The performances by everyone are terrific. Contrary to previous reviewers, there is nothing wrong with Slater's performance. Thankfully, it is understated as it should be. Also, it should be rather obvious, that with a role this meaty & important, Bacon's outstanding performance is likely to make any other actor in the same scene, seem less of an accomplishment. This is definately Kevin Bacon's most important role and should have garnered an Oscar nomination. This is a not to be missed movie- and wouldn't you know it, it's based on a true story. In the end, it's about a triumph of the human spirit. I was lucky enough to see this at the theater when it first came out- you're lucky because it's available on video- go rent it tonight if you're interested in a good story.
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8/10
Impactful!
cribyn4421 October 2008
Having caught up again with this film on t.v., I can only support all other commentators who have observed how utterly ridiculous is the American Academy Award system for not having even nominated the utterly brilliant performance by Kevin Bacon in this film for the best actor award, let alone in not giving him the damned thing! I am always impressed by whatever Kevin Bacon does, and am constantly surprised that he is one of those stars who always seems to creep under the public's radar of appreciation and awareness. As to the comments about the film not exactly being the "true" story of Henri Young, there again it always come down to the precise meaning and interpretation of a film's initial caveat of "inspired by a true story". Certainly, the film will have me searching the internet for more of the "true" facts of this harrowing story. And whether exactly the film was totally "true" or not, as any visitor to Alcatraz (as I have been myself) can tell you, just imagine yourself in any part of that prison in its heyday and say whether any filmic representation needs to be totally 100% accurate to convey the horrendous nature of what it must have been like there. Returning to the antics of the members of the U.S. Academy Award, their failures over this Kevin Bacon performance remind me of the time they robbed Cate Blanchett for her out of this world outstanding performance in "Elizabeth" in favour of that whimpering blonde piece of fluffy air Gwyneth Paltrow for the paltry "Shakespeare in Love".
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10/10
How This Movie Didn't Win an Oscar is Unfathomable
tolerford-123 October 2011
Kevin Bacon was incredible. See he won for his performance. But so should Christian Slater have. So should the cinematographer. Unique, inventive and incredibly creative camera perspectives. Wonderful historic background interspersed, too. Superlative effort all around. every facet of it. Scenes I glanced away from, but that's just my distaste for depiction of violence. Thought it was tenderly beautiful that Kyra Sedgewick was cast in that cameo, since Bacon is her real life husband. Slater cannot act poorly. He's incapable of it.

Everything about it, to say nothing of the theme itself. The lighting, the cryptic cutting every time the point was made without fail, the lingering closeups when humanity was the point.
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Not what it appears to be
sdbean2 December 2000
My comments are directed to the claim that this film is based on a true story. The true facts of Henri Young's case are significantly different from the story told in the movie. For instance, Young was not just a petty thief when he came to Alcatraz -- he was already doing time for bank robbery and murder. Nor was he kept in an underground dungeon for three years as punishment for an escape attempt -- his punishment was served in an isolation cell on the prison's first floor with the normal facilities that all prisoners' cells had. His case did not lead directly to the closing of Alcatraz; it continued as a Federal prison for over twenty years after his trial. Of course, there were some abuses at Alcatraz (as at virtually all prisons). Young's trial had some impact on correcting those abuses, but not to the extent suggested by the film.

If you're interested in another view of the Henri Young case, visit the Bureau of Prisons web site (I can't give the URL because that would violate the comments posting guidelines) and search for "Murder in the First".

In any film based on a true event, some license must be granted to the screenwriter. There's no way they can know exactly what was said in every conversation, so representative dialogue has to be written. Some minor characters will probably be composites. These things are understandable. But when the film blatantly distorts the main characters and the main events of the story, I can't help but think that the point the film is making is probably built on shaky ground. "Murder in the First" may be entertaining in some people's opinion, but no one should come away from this film thinking they have seen history portrayed accurately.
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7/10
Not Exactly the True Story
whpratt126 November 2006
This was a very entertaining film about the horrible treatment of a certain prisoner at Alcatraz named Henri Young who robbed a store for five dollars ($5.00) and was sent to prison. Henri Young was played by Kevin Bacon who did a fantastic job of acting and captured your attention through out the film. There were many scenes filmed on the Island of Alcatraz and some old time footage of the first time Warden of Alcatraz, James R. Johnston. Christian Slater, (James Stamphill) was the lawyer assigned for Henri Young's defense, who had a hard job trying to rehabilitate his client so he could stand trial and even speak a few words. Young was in such bad shape mentally from being put into the solitary confinement for three (3) years, he was like an animal instead of a human being. This Hollywood version is not all completely true about Henri Young, he really had a long history of crime and mental problems. However, this film is very entertaining and Kevin Bacon put his heart and soul into this role. Enjoy.
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10/10
WOW!!! Kevin Bacon at his BEST!!!
dgleyba10 October 2012
Just happened upon this movie the other night & decided to tape it as I couldn't watch on TNT's schedule.

How I missed this movie 17 years ago I'll never know.

This is by far one of the best movies I've ever seen! Not only was Kevin Bacon FANTASTIC, Christian Slater GREAT!!! I've never been a big Gary Oldman fan he was also EXCELLENT.

I was riveted to my chair throughout the entire movie; wish I'd seen it years ago when it first came out.

I grew up in the Bay Area and the scenery indoors and out were spot on! They truly did a great job on this movie.
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Architectural
tedg17 February 2006
This movie didn't do well, in fact drove a talented filmmaker away from directing.

Its because it has powerful characters and powerful actors that viewers snap to one of the six viewing modes they have and read it as a "character-driven" drama. Others were upset that the story deviates from real events rather drastically.

My own view is that this is one of the very few films we have that features a building as a character. This is a traditional trial form, where conflicting and synthesized realities are understood to exist by ordinary viewers. Usually this form is used to support battling stories, or versions of reality. Powerful characters can exist ("Mockingbird," "Few Good Men"), but they are there only as representatives of conflicting realities.

What makes this so interesting is that it is the building itself that is on trial. This is exploited by Rocco to an extraordinary extent. Fincher tried to take this notion to the next level in "Panic Room," but got fired. Too bad, because it is a cinematic thrill of sorts to see someone try to present a space as a character.

Sure, it is unusual and many viewers thought the man was going crazy with his odd camera angels, his swoops, his unusual blocking. But I ask you to watch this and see how the prison is introduced to us, and the supposed core, its antebellum dungeons. Then see the contrasting "open" space of the courtroom where it is to be tried. Slater's opening statement is an amazing exploration of space with one multi-encircling movement.

Ted's Evaluation -- 3 of 3: Worth watching.
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10/10
A great movie, and a great performance by Kevin Bacon.
beastmaster33711 June 2013
This is a great movie that, for some reason, no one has seen. I recently bought it because I am a big fan of Kevin Bacon, and I was completely amazed by his performance. The fact that he wasn't even nominated for an academy award shows you what a joke they are. All the actors are great, especially Bacon and Gary Oldman. The story is pretty good, and the movie is never boring, but the highlight of the film is Bacon's haunting portrayal of a man forced into solitary for three years. He manages to be both creepy and touching, which is amazing. There is some violence in the movie, so if you are not a fan of that, you might not want to watch. Other than that, however, I give a strong recommendation to fans of prison and courtroom movies, as this film contains some compelling elements of both. Overall - 8/10
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8/10
Very nicely done
clashcity1913 November 2006
Warning: Spoilers
I like this movie. It really is a very good and entertaining film in which Kevin Bacon gives a stellar performance as a tortured prisoner in Alcatraz. Christian Slater's performance is also absolutely one of his best.

One problem I have with this movie is that I was disappointed in how much it was manipulated from the true story it was based on. If I had not been so moved by movie, though, I would not have cared enough to look for facts about the actual ordeal. Henri Young is portrayed in the film very differently than the person he apparently actually was. I do not doubt the overall message, though. That message is that torture and cruelty will and do change people for the very worst. It shows you that a person can commit a crime, be convicted, and then become worse-off than they were to begin with. It reminds people that the goal of prisons in America are to "rehabilitate," but that is almost never what actually happens. It shows that abuses of power are as sinister as the actions of convicted felons.

I would still recommend this movie, by all means. Its story is warped from the facts and Henri Young is romanticized quite a lot, but that does not really change the overall message it is trying to convey.
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7/10
I knew this movie was too good to be true. Still, it was a good movie.
ironhorse_iv14 November 2013
Warning: Spoilers
Murder in the First is a really good movie, but it presents a film a very fictitious story based on a real life event. This movie takes great liberties to tell an entertaining story here about man's inhumanity against his fellow man, so it's seem unfair to criticize the film for not being 100% true to real events here. Still, I couldn't get pass the fact, that they made Henri Young (Kevin Bacon) into a victim of the prison system. This film seem to follow the same clichés almost all prison films in the 1990's had. Put stereotypically innocent prisoners and stereotypically abusive, brutal, and sadistic guards together, and then expect the audience to see that it is in fact the system and society that are truly to blame. I have to say, this was kinda bothersome. Thank Goodness for 1999's Green Mile for a good two sided film. I do like prison reform message movies, but the whole victimize of Henri Young makes the real life murderer Henri Young look like a good innocent guy. In the film directed by Marc Rocco, Henri Young went to Alcatraz Prison, because as a 17-year-old orphan, Henri stole $5 from a grocery store to feed himself and his little sister. In Alcatraz, he tries to escape, but the plan fail due to the betrayal of Rufus McCain (David Michael Sterling). After being punished to a holding cell solitary confinement for three years which looks more like a dungeon and being mistreated by associate warden Milton Glenn (Gary Oldman). Gary Oldman is just brilliant in this role. Oldman has a tendency to go over the top, but here he is more restrained and his work is better because of it, he has a calm chilling delivery. Because of Milton, and the dungeon, Henri lose his sanity, and kills McCain in the cafeteria on his first day back in general population. Now, Henri is put on trial for first degree murder in what prosecutors and the public-defender's office believe is an open-and-shut case. Public defender James Stamphill (Christian Slater), doesn't think so, and attempts to put Alcatraz on trial by alleging that its harsh conditions caused his client to commit murder. I have to say, this is Christian Slater's best role yet. He was very believer as a lawyer, and he should do more films like this. Still, I can do without the subplots involving Slater's relationship with his older brother. Kevin Bacon gives one great performance as Henri. He lost twenty pounds for the role, and pretty nail, his version of Henri Young. You can really see the negative effects of abuse that Henri took, with Kevin's body language. The way, he avoid eye connection, cowards himself in a corner, and speak in a near mute silence voice is powerful. The real life Henri wasn't like this at all. The real Henri Young was not convicted of stealing $5 to save his sister from destitution. He had been a hardened bank robber who had taken a hostage on at least one occasion and had committed a murder in 1933. Young was also no stranger to the penal system. Before being incarcerated at Alcatraz in 1936, he had already served time in two state prisons in Montana and Washington. Young wasn't kept in any dungeons for years in Alcatraz, as they were closed almost a decade earlier when the film take place. He was only segregation for a few months, before coming back into general population. So It's hard to root for a fictional Henri Young when in real life, he was pretty vile and there isn't much prove that he was victimize. I'm not saying, he wasn't, but it's hard to believe that Young didn't meant to kill McCain. Even if being mistreated by the system, I think he really did want to murder McCain. After all, he was a brutal kidnapper who enjoyed terrorizing his victims. The movie even said he die in prison, when he didn't. In 1972 after Young was released from Washington State Penitentiary, he jumped parole. According to authorities his whereabouts remain unknown as of this writing. Many of the film ideas were taken directly from newspaper articles of the highly politicized contentious trial, so it's hard to know if it's true or not. One thing, true about the film is while filming courtroom scenes, the location was hit by the 1994 6.7 Northridge, California, earthquake. So it's would be interesting to see that delete footage if ever shown. The tagline tells us this is the story of the trial that closed down Alcatraz. Henry's case wasn't one of the reasons that Alcatraz closed if people were wondering. The true reason why Alcatraz closed because it was too expensive to operate, pure and simple. I would recommend this movie to courtroom drama fans. The visual effects, score, and acting is just amazing. It's an entertaining well-made film, like 1962's Birdman of Alcatraz, but it's just Hollywood prison romanticization fantasy. Nothing more. Very little truth in these types of films. Still, worth checking out.
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10/10
" Alcatraz Prison, Life within the Belly of The beast "
thinker169119 March 2010
In 1933, Alcatraz island or 'Bird Island' as it was originally called became a Federal Prison. During it's thirty year history, 15 attempted escapes were made by twenty five inmates, of which only one was ever successful by three men. Known as perhaps the most brutal facility of its kind, it has housed perhaps the most infamous of criminals. One such inmate was Henri Young. In this film, called "Murder in The First Degree ", Henry is played superbly by Kevin Bacon. (Giving an Academy award performance) Convicted of robbing a small grocery store of five dollars, it turned serious when a prosecutor argued, the place was also used as a Post Office, making it a Federal Crime. Thus, instead of receiving a minimum sentence, Young was given the maximum of 25 years. The movie encapsulates the ensuing years as a black nightmarish collection of excruciating physical torture, extreme mental retaliation. barbaric conditions and medieval retribution. Gary Oldman, plays Milton Glenn, the cold, dispassionate, insensitive and vindictive warden. After years of dark, isolation and physical torture, Henri is allowed out of the hellish Dungon. Due to his sadistic treatment by the guards, resulting in his unstable mental condition, he attacks another inmate and kills him. Facing the death Penalty, he is given an inexperienced attorney named James Stamphill (Christian Slater) who argues his case before Judge Clawson (R. Lee Ermey). Seen by the new prosecutor as an open and shut case, the trial takes a bizarre turn when Stampthill argues, Alcatraz Prison, it's Warden, his guards and it's barbarous, malicious treatment of prisoners be included in the charge of Murder. The movie is an vivid portrayal of Alcatraz prison and it's treatment of inmates. Further, the fine performances by the cast depicts a cold brutal reality of man's inhumanity to man. Spending years in a dark, dank isolated cell, Henry Young and many other abandoned prisoners gave their pathetic lives, to eventually have the Rock closed down. This film becomes a great tribute to their forgotten experiences. Terrific Film. ****
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10/10
One of my all time favourites films
darmok5710 June 2014
I saw this film not long after its DVD release, in the days that we all used to travel down to our local DVD store and rent our movies over-night. On this day I had little idea of what I was renting, just another Alcatraz movie I thought. What a wonderful surprise to find this gem of a story based on actual events. Beautifully performed by it's cast and directed with an emotional heart that lived with me long after the movies first viewing. If I had a wishlist of prison films to see before I die this would be right up there, in the same class as The Green Mile, The Shawshank Redemption and The Bird-man of Alcatraz. Wonderful film so rich in acting talent that I think they should have all won Oscars, please watch it and enjoy it and it will say with you for years.
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10/10
This SUPERB Movie deserves WAY more recognition!
akent3518 January 2014
It has always been baffling to me why this excellent film is hardly recognized! As others have so correctly remarked, the acting by Kevin Bacon and Christian Slater was top notch! And, the story is played out to perfection, along with being so, so inspiring. Almost all of the scenes in the court room also enhance those qualities. And, of course, Gary Oldman is Gary Oldman, that is, an excellent actor no matter what role he plays.

A number of our friends have actually never heard of this movie. But, when one of them subsequently watched it, she remarked how good a movie it is.

This film, along with "Awakenings", both need to be given so much more notoriety. I can watch either of them numerous times, and never be bored.
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9/10
Filled With Powerful Performances!
g-bodyl5 August 2013
Murder in the First, is a very powerful courtroom/prison drama that features exemplary acting from all three leads. It's a shame a January release hindered this film's award chances. Plus, I'm shocked not many people heard of this great film. Even though this film is not historically accurate, it's still an engaging film with three of the finest performances you will see.

Marc Rocco's film is loosely based on Henri Young and his time at Alcatraz. After Young is transferred to the prison with his only crime stealing five dollars to feed his sister, he is inhumanely treated by the associate warden thus leading to a murder. But a young defense lawyer comes to his aid to lessen his charge against him and to prove to the world what a terrible place Alcatraz is.

The acting is magnificent to say the least. Kevin Bacon delivers one of his best performances of his career and he shows a wide acting range playing Henri who lacks trust after spending three years in complete darkness. Christian Slater does mighty fine as the lawyer and Gary Oldman, as usual, delivers another impressive performance.

Overall, this film is very interesting and it's an emotionally powerful movie. Some of the scenes really moved me especially the one when we find out some hard, cold facts involving the head warden in the courtroom scene. Like most others, I was disappointed when I learned many facts were muddled but still made audience believe the events in the film were true. That being said, I really liked this movie and I find it to be criminally underrated. I rate this film 9/10.
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A powerful and harrowing watch
ben839 October 2011
Directed by Marc Rocco, Murder In The First (based very loosely on a true story), tells the tale of Alcatraz inmate Henri Young (Bacon) and his treatment at the hands of the Associate Warden and Alcatraz authorities, which subsequently lead to the catastrophic events that set the film in motion.

The period is set in the late 1930's. Petty thief Henri Young, played by Kevin Bacon, was sent to Alcatraz previously from another prison to make up the numbers as the infamous Rock was lacking incorrigibles at the time and the numbers needed justification. He and a small party of other prisoners attempt a daring escape which inevitably fails. One of the escapees, Rufus McCain cuts a deal with the Associate Warden Glenn (Gary Oldman) and is rewarded by being sent back to the general prison population. Henri Young is not so lucky and is sent to the dungeons of Alcatraz, commonly referred to as 'The Hole', where he spends a total of 3 years and 2 months in complete solitude, with no light, clothing, toilet or other basic provisions. We then witness Young's gradual descent into insanity as he is cut off from human contact and suffers merciless torture and beatings at the hands of the Warden and the guards there.

Young emerges a mere shell of his former self, and almost immediately kills another inmate in the prison canteen. The rest of the movie is focused on the subsequent court case whereby Henri is defended by a young and inexperienced, albeit enthusiastic lawyer James Stamphill, played by Christian Slater. Stamphill attempts to put Alcatraz and it's wardens on trial and expose the conditions there.

The movie is a solid one and is gripping enough to keep you watching. Christian Slater's narration leads us through the movie and events. Kevin Bacon is excellent and very convincing as the prisoner making us believe every word and scene. He plays Henri Young as a pathetic, ruined man who is totally at the mercy of Alcatraz.

Gary Oldman is great in a supporting role here, playing a sadistic warden almost in a monstrous bureaucratic way. He is given free reign to do what he does in the film and of course Oldman is at his best when playing borderline psychos with underlying anger issues just waiting to boil up. I only wish his character could have been given a little more screen time.

Christian Slater is good as the lawyer and is suited for this part. I am often undecided in my opinion of Christian Slater when I watch him, but I feel that in this movie he does what is needed and plays Stamphill as a decent guy who is fundamentally a humanist.

Some scenes are brutal and hard to watch, especially the torture scenes in the dungeons where Bacons's character suffers. Some viewers may actually consider this a movie that requires only the one watch, as it kind of leaves a dark impression on the mind. But this is how it was intended to be made. It's not pretending to be anything else. This is undoubtedly a very moving and powerful film that won't disappoint. If you like strong and solid performances then look no further.
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Brilliant Movie : Truly Uplifting
OlgaLednichenko12 September 2008
This is one of my favorite movies;; and I have a not about this on my Electrifying performances by both Kevin Bacon and Slater.

Very few movies come across that are that gripping.Moves you up to your seat. And then there is always this tension and drama, anxiety about what's next to come.

The fact that this is based on a true life story makes it a more powerful saga. A saga that smells courage, conviction and commitment. How many movies like this exist. This movies falls under the ranks of Shaw Shank redemption.. Pappion, The Holocaust, Its a wonderful life.. et all..

really a bone of a movie. I have watched it so many times that each and every scene is tattooed on my brain. I can even close my eyes and see the trail unfold.

If you haven't watched it - you are not just missing an American Classic but also you are missing examples and stories to tell your kids - what happened once upon a west.. Cheers Olga Lednichenko
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10/10
Bacon's Performance Oscar Worthy
drossberg1 October 2005
I was very disappointed that Kevin Bacon's Performance was not nominated. His in depth, thought provoking, believable portrayal of Henry was comparable to other performances won by actors. I can watch this film over and over again - & I have. I believe when Kevin Bacon is honored with some type of Lifetime Achievement Award & he will be - Murder In the First will receive roaring applause and recognition by all. I respect him as an actor who crosses the path of losing oneself to "feel" his characters. An interpretation that will draw me to watch a Bacon performance - whether the script is wrong, the directing is off key or any other reason a film can be deemed bad.
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1/10
Dishonest waste of talent.
cobram-13 October 2004
This should have been a great movie. If only all those involved in it weren't so smug and self righteous that they presented this piece of fiction as "based on a true story". It's not based on anything except the imagination and perceptions of those who acted in it, produced, directed and wrote it. If they had just been honest, and represented it as the total piece of fiction that it is, it would have made watching this movie a much different experience. But when you dig a little (very little) and find out that this "based on facts" is a total crock, with NOTHING remotely resembling the truth about the cold killer career criminal (who might still be alive today) it portrays on the screen. I ended up hating this movie for this very reason. When you find out the truth, you'll feel manipulated and punked for buying into this trite piece of Hollyweird liberal fiction. All prisoners are just misunderstood nice guys who stole $5 to feed their underprivileged poor siblings. I don't think ANYONE was ever sent to Alcatraz for such trivial matters, it was the "Supermax" of its day, and you were only sent there because of your actions at other prisons. You only left "the Rock" if you showed that you could behave, then you were sent to another prison, nobody was ever put directly from Alcatraz to the street. To be fair, they are not the first ones to do this with an Alcatraz background, Burt Lancasters movie, "The Birdman of Alcatraz" did pretty much the same thing. Glorifying and embellishing the life of a murdering antisocial pimp. To sum it up, this movie is total fiction, the facts and figures are total fiction, the story is total fiction, and is purposefully represented as a true story to propagate the opinions of those that made it. Very dishonest and irresponsible to pass this off as factual in any way.
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8/10
The definition of rehabilitate: To restore to a state of physical, mental, and moral health through treatment and training.
Spikeopath12 July 2012
Murder in the First is directed by Marc Rocco and written by Dan Gordon. It stars Kevin Bacon, Christian Slater, Gary Oldman, Embeth Davidtz, William H. Macy and R. Lee Ermey. Music is scored by Christopher Young and cinematography by Fred Murphy.

Slater stars as James Stamphill, an idealistic young attorney who is tasked with defending Alcatraz prisoner Henri Young (Bacon) who clearly murdered a fellow inmate. But what transpires is that Henri had just spent over three years in solitary confinement for attempting to escape the prison. It's evident, also, that Henri has been the subject of systematic violence perpetrated by sadistic Warden Milton Glenn (Oldman). Stamphill risks his career, and Henri's life, to put Alcatraz and the people in charge on trial.

Inspired by a true story, viewers should note that this is mostly a fictitious film. The truths are readily available on line so I will not waste space divulging the facts here. Suffice to say that Murder in the First is to be judged solely as a work of fiction. But what a film we get, a heart yanking, emotionally upsetting picture showcasing the evil that men do, filling out the narrative with alienation, cruelty, corruption and revenge driven murder. The dehumanising effects of prison abuse has never been so touchingly portrayed as it is here by Bacon, it's a haunting and vivid portrayal of a man pushed to the limits of sanity, a guy living in the dark recess of hell, struggling with every breath to come out into the light. An astonishing performance that once again in Bacon's career was ignored by his Academy peers.

Whilst high on emotional wallop, and some scenes really are tough to watch, the film falls shy of brilliance on account of standard fare for the courtroom sequences. Nothing bad but there's a dramatic thrust missing, and it's not Slater's fault, who is good at being sincere and humanist, the script doesn't provide enough thunder in the trial, in fact often it's too low key for its own good. We get a great snippet of what we are missing as Oldman (another great turn as a angry bastard) loses his cool, but more stomping, shouting and legal soul picking was needed.

Tech credits are very good. Rocco has a good sense of claustrophobic atmosphere, the scenes in the bowels of the prison perfectly portray Young's disorientation, the dank, dark and wet surroundings in keeping with the prisoner's state of mind. The director also favours an impressive roving camera technique that serves the story well. He also slots in a couple of noirish reflection scenes, one sees Glenn lose his cool while shaving and smash the mirror, the result is a distorted reflection, a showing of a fractured psyche. The other sees a prison visit between Stamphill and Young separated by a piece of glass, their respective reflections at first coming off as grotesque, but then slowly blending into one, a sign that maybe lawyer and prisoner will eventually sing from the same song sheet? It's a film that has found its way on to some neo-noir lists, visually and thematically as regards Bacon's character, that is fair enough.

Elsewhere. Murphy's photography is a key component to the tonal flow of the story, while Young's score is a real treat, criminally forgotten it relies on strings and choir for emotive means and succeeds exceptionally well. In support Macy and Davidtz do well with thinly written parts, but Ermey is a joy as the blunderbuss judge presiding over the trial. Nice to see Brad Dourif in the mix as well, even if we ultimately hanker for more of this great character actor. In a year that saw high end emotional drama released with Dead Man Walking and Leaving Las Vegas, Murder in the First sadly had some of its thunder stolen. Which coupled with the fact many refused to accept it fictionalising the Henri Young/Alcatraz story, saw it slip away until the World went internet crazy and it got rediscovered. It deserves to be found still some more, so seek it out film fans. 8/10
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