It's not all wrong, it just seems to be in that way. From the awkward presentation to the editing mess and going with some average to bad performances, "The Chicago 8" diminishes the impact of the events that took place in between 1968 and 1970, going from the riots at the Democratic National Convention which led to Nixon's green light the prosecutions from the allegedly inciters (young activists opposed to the Vietnam war) in 1969, more problematic than the protests, delayed and agitated time and time again due to the conflictive nature of the eight men accused against a biased and authoritarian judge (played by a histrionic Philip Baker Hall).
The director's big and failed idea is to be and present more than it can eat, bite and chew. It shifts from being a clichéd panorama of the 1960's with its sex, drugs and rock n'roll ideas to the serious drama concerning one of the most infamous cases of the American judicial system, and several comedic moments, everything altogether. Like a scratched 78 rpm vinyl, this goes almost nowhere with its repetitive scheme: trial, mess in the court, the defendants get beaten up, judge gets out of order, the prosecution always gets favorable motions from the man, the defense doesn't get same treatment and the judgment doesn't go on. Slap. Again. Slap. Again. Minor variation of the events. Again. It goes in circles for too long without explaining some facts - like why Bobby Seale (Orlando Jones) was arrested and the other 7 kept free to plan their defense better. Those who don't know the story will be completely lost. Not to mention it's too one dimensional, doesn't expose the other side of the quarrel, the government reactions and reasons for keep this circus going on. It might be covered with the truth but it doesn't pass the image of being authentic, credible. I don't know which was more unbelievable or was the biggest travesty of all: the movie or the real trial.
Major reason to enjoy this: the acting coming from the young stars, specially Danny Masterson (playing Jerry Rubin), Thomas Ian Nicholas (best in scene playing Abby Hoffman), Jones plays a good Bobby Seale but not as good as Courtney B. Vance in "Panther" and a quite remarkable Gary Cole playing the Chicago 8 lawyer. The young actors were dedicated, relatable and truly inspiring sometimes, eclipsing heavyweights like Baker Hall and Steven Culp. It's a shame they don't have much of a elaborated text to work with which reduced their roles to cheesy lines, some dull moments and one or two great lines of dialog.
I liked this movie but felt that there's something missing. It's such a powerful and interesting case that doesn't get translated to the screen with the same verve. 6/10