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*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I saw the 1997 remake of this famous play from the `Golden Age of Television'. I've never seen the 1954 original in which Bob Cummings played Juror #8, (The Fonda/Lemmon role). But I have admired the 1957 film for years. Inevitably, when one sees the new version some kind of verdict must be reached on which is better.
The story is the same, with a few minor updates. (The case against the defendant seems spectacularly weak and rather easy for the hero to take apart- how could anybody rely on witnesses who heard things over the roar of a passing train or who saw the crime through its windows?) The real comparison is of the characters as played by the different casts of actors, both of which represent an incredible confluence of thespian achievement.
Juror #1: This is the jury foreman. He's played by Martin Balsam in the original as a nice guy who just wants everybody to get along. Courtney Vance seems a little more intense while retaining the strong desire for fairness and teamwork Balsam conveyed. In the new one, Vance is a football coach and one can sense that he views himself as the `coach' of this team. My vote goes to Vance.
Juror #2: John Fiedler, a short bald-headed actor with a squeaky voice and mild manner played #2 as a guy who just wanted to be helpful and not impose himself on the others. Ossie Davis is a very different actor and his juror #2 is a very different character, a common working man who remembers wise things others have told him and has an instinct for what's right and wrong, even if an uncomplicated one. He could hardly have led the battle for a not guilty finding as #8 does but he recognizes when the man is right. Davis is clearly the more interesting performer here.
Juror #3: This is the villain of the piece, who in the end becomes a pathetic figure. He wants to `get this kid' not so much because he's guilty but, it turns out, because he reminds him of his estranged son. He starts out as the garrulously arrogant leader of the wolfpack and, as he loses one ally after another, he seems, (to himself), as the last man at the Alamo until the real reason for his position is revealed to him. It's hard to think of two actors more similar than Lee J Cobb and George C. Scott, both of them lions not just in winter but for all seasons. Scott not only played this role that Cobb had made a meal of- he also played Cobb's most famous role- Willy Loman in `Death of a Salesman'. You could also picture Scott playing Johnny Friendly in `On the Waterfront' or Cobb playing the prosecutor in `Anatomy of a Murder, the manager in `The Hustler' or even `Patton'. The difference here is simply their ages and their states of health. Lee J. Cobb was 46 in 1957 and 19 years away from death and George Scott was 70 in 1997 and only two years from meeting his maker. He's fat, jowly and pretty pathetic looking from the beginning. Cobb is robust and intimidating until he collapses from within. He wins this one big and it's a big win for the old film.
Juror #4: In the original this man is played by the wonderful EG Marshall, who would go on to star in Rose's `The Defenders'. He is a man who possesses relentless logic but little imagination. He is able to see what is put in front of him and fit it together but not to view something from multiple perspectives, as could an architect, (Juror #8's profession). Only when the evidence from which he has assembled his point of view is methodically destroyed by #8 does he come to realize he is wrong. As good as Marshall is, I believe Armin Mueller Stahl tops him in the new version. Marshall's #4 is machine-like. Mueller-Stahl is just a regular man whose greatest skill happens to be logical thought, which is admirable but not enough.
Juror #5: Jack Klugman could be a powerful actor when he kept him mouth shut. When he talked too much, (as in `Quincy)', he was a little, (maybe a lot), too much. But his understatement in 12 Angry Men serves him much better. Still, I'll take Dorian Harwood's more intense and troubled #5. He seems to be wondering how his fellow jurors would grade him for things he's done.
Juror #6: James Gandolfini, several years before `The Sopranos' made him a star, plays a simple hulk of a man who is incapable of complicated thought but has a basic sense of honor. He hates it when anybody tries to push around `the old man', (juror #9). One wonders how the fact that the murder victim was a father played on his mind. (Rose updates his play by having #8 point out the many faults of the father: he drank, pushed around women, etc.,- this seems an unnecessary attempt to create sympathy for the defendant.). The 1957 character is much the same but the underrated Edward Binns plays him much better.
Juror #7: Jack Warden was much praised as the guy who just wants to finish in time to go to the ball game. He's always been one of my favorite character actors. Tony Danza is singled out for the most criticism because he's `a sitcom actor'. That said, Danza is quite as good as Warden. By the way, Jack Lemmon was also a `sitcom actor' in 1952's `Heaven for Betsy'.
Juror #8: The conscience of us all. Jack Lemmon would at one time have made a meal of this. He's pretty good here, but, like Scott, he's lost something in his old age. He's fat and dumpy and baggy-eyed. He lacks the nervous energy he once had. He can't make the big speeches with as much force as he once would have. Fonda is much stronger and more convincing.
Juror #9: The best thing in the new one is the priceless Hume Cronyn as `the old man', who does almost as much to sway his fellow jury members as #8 but seems too frail to stand up to their anger. His key revelation that the testimony of the other old man who was a witness may have been fueled by his desire to `be somebody' is poignant as #9 can obviously identify with that. Joseph Sweeney is competent in this role in the 1957 version but Cronyn is on another level entirely.
Juror #10: This is the `other' villain of the piece. His problem is bigotry. Rose cleverly converted the white racist of 1957 into a black racist in 1997, just to show that bigotry takes many forms. Mykelti Williamson gives a strong performance in this role but I still prefer Ed Begley's old wreck of a man, who retreats into a shell after everyone- even #3 rejects him.
Juror #11: This is a European immigrant who, perhaps because he is an outsider who has been judged by American Society since he got here, becomes one of the first converts. George Voskovic is fine in the original, Edward James Olmos his equal in the new one.
Juror #12: This is an air-headed salesman who sides with whoever looks like they are going to win. Lemmon would have been excellent in this role in 1957. Robert Webber was fine instead. CSI's William Peterson doesn't make much of an impression the remake, (except that he's put on a lot of weight in seven years).
So, I'll take Cobb, Binns, Fonda, Begley and Webber from the 1957 film and Vance, Davis, Mueller-Stahl, Harewood and Cronyn from the 1997 TV Movie, with the other two positions a tie. That leaves us with a 5-5-2 tie overall. But it's not really a tie. The two main roles are #8 and #3 and biggest `supporting' role #10 and the 1957 film gets a hat trick on those.
But each film is worth spending the time to watch and then watch over again the next time it's on.
This TV-movie is truly remarkable. It's a remake of an undeniable classic, and that word usually brings tears to your eyes. Remakes normally are a lame excuse used by uninspired directors to make more money out of a good idea. You know the drill of the average remake: bigger, louder and as less tribute to the original as possible. William Friedkin's take on 12 Angry Men is the exact opposite of all this. It's a modest re-telling of the story but obviously made with endless amounts of professionalism and respect towards the original. Taken up to an even higher level by on of the best ensemble casts of the nineties! All members of the jury are familiar faces and some of them give away the best performances in their entire career. The acting level of the cast during some of the intense discussions and debates almost burns holes in the screens it's that perfect. A very special word of respect and worship goes out to Jack Lemmon, Hume Cronym and George C. Scott. These 3 late legends of the big screen kept on giving amazing performances till they sadly passed away. May their souls rest in piece, cinema will never forget them. Of course, I can't give this version the honor of being better than the original masterpiece starring Henry Fonda, but nevertheless it's an intense and fascinating courtroom drama that'll leave no soul unharmed. Naturally, one could ask the question if it was really necessary to create an update of 12 Angry Men the answer to that would be no' of course, but what the heck. Almost every remake, sequel or spin-off is unnecessary, but that doesn't mean they can't be enjoyable.
If you have seen the original "12 Angry Men," it's hard not to classify this
film as inferior. The acting was better, the cinematography was better, the
pace was faster. The cast in the remake is talented, just not as talented.
Even the great George C. Scott couldn't quite measure up to Lee J. Cobb.
Even the great Jack Lemmon couldn't compare to Henry Fonda. The only actor
I felt was an improvement was Mykelti Williamson, who delivers a powerful
and disturbing speech towards the end. I see him in mostly small,
supporting roles, where he doesn't really get to show off his talent. In
this film, Williamson gets the chance to flaunt his overlooked acting chops.
One actor who I felt was a big step down was Tony Danza, who doesn't
measure up at all to Jack Warden. Danza does an OK job, but dramatic acting
isn't his forte. Sitcom acting is his strongsuit. Edward James Olmos does
a fine job, but it took time getting over his phony accent. That's right,
he's been in this country so long that his Latino accent sounds phony.
Nevertheless, the acting is good and the film really muscles up during the third act. If the director sped up the pace and the camerawork wasn't as clumsy, this could've been a much more compelling film. But to be fair, it's a tough job measuring up to the original. We've all seen and heard much of the dialogue (which is almost word-for-word from the original script, only with a few obscenities, one racial slur and modern references like "Fat Albert" added), so hearing it again is like listening to a stand-up comedian using his old material. Funny stuff, but we've heard it before. Only a good comedian will usually maintain a good delivery of the joke, while the delivery of some of the old dialogue is limp this time around.
My score: 7 (out of 10)
Like the original 1957 film, this remake is a taut drama. Unlike most remakes, this one is as good as the first. The script still stands up as a gritty revelation of human psychology. The cast is solid, and the characters are more diverse than in the original. Look at both versions and see a study not only in the workings of human nature but also in the workings of script adaptation at its best.
Whether or not we really needed a remake of the famous Henry Fonda film,
updated with a range of nationalities and transferred to television, this is
a well-enough done update benefiting from some strong actors in the cast.
Jack Lemmon takes on the voice of dissent (the Fonda role), while George C
Scott is the redneck extremist (played earlier by Lee J Cobb). We also have
Hume Cronyn and Ossie Davis, both fine actors in their eighties or
thereabouts by the time this was filmed.
The script has been slightly updated but the premise is the same, all about family betrayals and the head-on reassessment of prejudice. Lemmon in particular is excellent as the quiet reasoner ready to debate the whys and wherefores with his fellow jurors. And Scott is memorable in one of his final roles, simmering on the edge of indignation until the pay off moment when he realises not all his problems can be solved by pinning blame on others.
This shouldn't replace the 50s version but is good enough in its own right to stand alongside it.
Watching this movie was like peeling an onion- the more it progressed the more the heart of the real matter was revealed. The ideas this movie fosters- the certainty that everyone enters the jury room with a hidden agenda were proven. Most of all it brings to light the fact that justice and money are connected. I was in awe of both Jack Lemmon and Hume Cronyn- how they were men of courage. Though the whole movie is set in a jury room it never lacks for tension and action. This movie should be required for every person who ever has to serve on a jury.
A young man(Douglas Spain) is accused of murder. It is a hot summer day in a
jury room. Most of the jurors have better things to do, and want to get out
of there. One man, Juror #8(Jack Lemmon), decides not to jump to
conclusions. He uses reason and logic to help prove to the other jurors that
there is a reasonable doubt, and there is not enough evidence to convict
this man. Juror #8 has to convince a bigot, Juror #10(Mykelti Williamson), a
man who refuses to admit he may be wrong, Juror #4(Armin Mueller-Stahl), a
man who has something against young people, Juror #3(George C. Scott), and a
man who just wants to get out of there, even if it means making an unjust
choice, Juror #7(Tony Danza).
Lemmon, Scott, Williamson, Stahl, and even Danza put on great performances. This is an exception to the rule that remakes can't be great. This was a brilliant film. Like in the original, tempers flare as it is a hot day and there is no air conditioner. William L. Petersen, Edward James Olmos, Hume Cronyn, James Gandolfini, Dorian Harewood, Ossie Davis, and Courtney B. Vance all play as jurors too. Every juror does a great job. Every character has a story and view point.
If you liked the classic or play, you should definitely see this remake. I strongly recommend this movie. 10/10
Last night, I attempted to rent the b&w classic at the the local video store
only to find that they had switched the classic with the remake (which I
realized only after I got it home). I figured I might as well give it a try.
Honestly, it wasn't a bad movie, but it doesn't even begin to compare with
the original (which is one of my all-time favorites). An attempt has been
made update the movie by adding minorities and modernizing some of the
dialog. Some of this works, some of it doesn't. Also, a few of the roles in
the remake are badly miscast (Tony Danza and Ozzie Davis both come to
I'd give this version 6/10 and the original gets a 10/10 from me.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
This remake of ''12 Angry Men''is awesome! I didn't watched the
original version of this movie, but I liked very much this version,so I
guess the first one is so great or even better then this one.(I will
watch it eventually) 12 jurors need to conclude if a boy accused to
have killed his father, is guilty or non guilty. The majority of them
believes that the boy is guilty, with the exception of only one of the
jurors (the juror number 8). Since the boy's penalty will be death
sentence, the juror number 8 wants to know the arguments and reasons
before giving a conclusion,making everybody to think very well about
all the case and to forget their hypocrisy.
This movie is spectacular and make us think very well about the process of the things,specially in Court. I liked the cast very much as well, even not knowing many of the actors, I think their job was terrific!
The hardest part of reviewing a remake is avoiding comparing it to the
original. The same holds true here.
The story behind "12 Angry Men" is one of the greatest of our time and is a must-see for all, whether it is on stage, on TV, or in the movie theater. I personally think the 1957 original is the best made, but the fact that that was the first version I saw and that that is the "classic" version has probably made me a tad bit biased.
That all being said, this made-for-TV version of the story is done well. Unfortunately, it does, in every way, feel like a made-for-TV movie, which is unfortunate considering the immense talent pool of the cast (made up of everyone from old legends like George C. Scott, Ossie Davis, and Jack Lemmon to newer stars like Tony Danza, Courtney B. Vance, Mykelti Williamson, James Gandolfini, and Edward James Olmos). Each of these men is capable of doing a great deal more than they show in this movie. It feels almost like they are forcing themselves to act and so the performances are not believable. In short, nobody ever really gets "into character."
Part of the reason might be because so many of the actors do not personally reflect their characters. For example, Jack Lemmon and George C. Scott both look significantly older than "the old man" (Juror #9). Edward James Olmos is supposed to play "the foreigner," but Armin Mueller-Stahl, the man playing the wealthy and dignified Juror #4, speaks with a very noticeable German accent.
Even though I wanted to avoid it, I think I will do a point-by-point critique of the actors' performances based on how their characters were designed and based, somewhat, on the nearly flawless performances in the 1957 classic: Juror #1 - Courtney B. Vance does a fairly good job, but his delivery is not very natural at all. Juror #2 - Ossie Davis is a very talented actor and plays his role well. The only possible bone I have to pick is that his character is supposed to be a meek young man, whereas Ossie Davis plays as a meek, older man. Juror #3 - George C. Scott is an acting legend and plays the character as well, though he plays the role very angrily and, I think, not sarcastically enough. In some places, he overdoes it. But still, I can see Lee J. Cobb's performance in him. Juror #4 - Well done performance by Armin Mueller-Stahl; just the accent issue. Juror #5 - Dorian Harewood, another good actor. Problem: his character is supposed to start off shy and slowly gain some aggression. Harewood's character is aggressive from the get-go. Juror #6 - James Gandolfini plays his part well. Not much to criticize. Juror #7 - Not bad, Tony Danza. Jack Warden, we must admit, is much better at playing a loud-mouth like Juror #7 than Tony Danza, partly because Warden speaks so loudly anyway. Juror #8 - Jack Lemmon is another acting legend, but his acting here seems tired and forced. It's not as natural as Henry Fonda's performance in the classic version. Juror #9 - The "old man" is not old enough, plain and simple. (Actually, his age is fine. It's just that everyone else is too old and it makes him look young.) Juror #10 - Okay, Mykelti Williamson simply does not cut it when it comes to Ed Begley's original, hateful bigot. Williamson plays more of a I'm-mad-at-the-whole-world-just-because character than a bigot. Juror #11 - Awesome job by Edward James Olmos, comparable to the original. Juror #12 - Also a fairly good job by William Petersen (of "CSI" fame). Again, not as good as Robert Webber's original, but still good.
Okay, I didn't want to have to do that, but I did. So sue me. :)
Now that I've shown that this version does not compare with the original, I will compliment it enough to say that it is still worth watching. It features a class of good albeit under-used actors and the story is the most important part. The exploration of humanity and the jury process and our biases and human nature and so much more can all be seen in the story of "12 Angry Men."
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