New York City police detective John Shaft (nephew of the original 1970s detective) goes on a personal mission to make sure the son of a real estate tycoon is brought to justice after a racially-motivated murder.
Samuel L. Jackson,
Hayes Hodges finds his career aspirations dashed when he's wounded in Vietnam combat. He then returns to America and becomes a disillusioned lawyer who goes up against the service to defend Colonel Terry Childers, who is accused of inciting an incident that leaves many demonstrators dead. Hodges in no position to decline: Childers heroically saved his life back in Vietnam. Written by
Interesting but too simplistic and lacking in courtroom sparks
Years have past since Col Hodges and Col Childers were comrades in combat. Hodges is now retired while Childers is still on active service in the Middle East. When he is called in to help protect and evacuate the US Embassy in the middle of a riot, Childers orders his men to return fire despite not having any definite targets. With a crowd of 80 dead, many women and children, the authorities are forced to go after Childers to have someone to blame. Childers turns to his old friend to help defend him.
With a pair of real heavyweights in lead roles I was quite looking forward to this film. It is quite easy to get into the film as the opening 40 minutes are pretty exciting and shocking in equal measure it forces you to think where you stand on the action taken by Childers in both past and present. However as the film goes on the moral debate becomes simplified and it is clear where we are being steered, as opposed to being allowed to think things out for ourselves. The `debate' or thoughtful side is lost and we are left with the courtroom drama side of things.
I'm not a big fan of courtroom thrillers as they often rely on unlikely twists at the end and lots of shouting in place of substance. However I do enjoy the odd one if it hangs together and has energy. However, the courtroom scenes here never really get off the ground and surprisingly (given the emotive subject) really lack energy and twists. Even the conclusion of the film is a real damp squid, the verdict is simply delivered, so if you're expecting twists and turns and big revelations forget it. Inexplicably, the film puts up two or three captions over the final shot to tell us more information for some of these the film would have been much more exciting if it had worked these into the final 20 minutes of the film. To have them as flat words on a screen is pointless (especially since this isn't a true story!).
Jones and Jackson both do good work, as you'd expect for a pair of tough nuts such as they. Jackson has the better character (until the script weakens itself). Pearce is OK in support but the script doesn't give him too much to work with, his side of the case is easy of course, so the film stops him overpowering the court case at the same time as it simplifies it's stance. Support from faces such as Kingsley, Archer, Greenwood and Underwood is OK but in some cases are so brief to be cameos.
Overall this starts well, but it fairs to really involve once the moral debate side of the film is simplified and phased out. The question `what would you do' is rendered null and void with each flashback Jackson has. The courtroom scenes barely fizzle let alone ignite the screen and the film putters to a poor ending that is badly done. Worth seeing with good performances from the leads but still a pretty big disappointment.
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