When a judge is charged with rape, Arthur Kirkland is forced to defend him. Kirkland has had problems with the judge in the past, including one incident when the judge wrongly sentenced his client Jeff McCullaugh because of a technicality. Kirkland faces a moral and legal dilemma.Written by
Melissa Portell <email@example.com>
Co-scriptwriter Barry Levinson said of researching the film in real life American courtrooms: "The first thing that strikes you is not to trust your first impressions. We'd see someone and say, 'Gee, he looks like a nice guy,' then discover that he'd butchered his whole neighborhood. The second reaction is that truth and justice aren't necessarily the same. Every trial is a unique personal drama with different motivations, different circumstances. Yet we want the law - the verdict - to be absolute". See more »
When Pacino is having his final rant in court regarding Forsythe, his jacket is open, then buttoned, then opened again without him even attempting to undo the buttons See more »
One of the reasons Al Pacino was the most important actor of the 70s.
We don't get many of these types of movies anymore. Studios worry about their commercial appeal (ie. appeal to teenagers on a date) and give us more gory thrillers or rom-coms instead, but back in the 70s the occasional satiric drama would sneak past the studio committee types and hit the box office like a blot of lightning. Part of the reason for this was the presence of successful writers of hard hitting social satire like Paddy Chayefsky among the front of rank of Hollywood scripters and another reason was powerhouse actors like Pacino. Like his earlier hit Dog Day Afternoon, here the camera stays on him like a spotlight as he fights a doomed fight with every breath in his body.
This movie took on a serious subject: a Justice System so lost in its own bureaucracy and politics that it could no longer dispense the thing it was created for, ie. justice. Pacino ran with it in classic fashion, ranting, foaming at the mouth, practically rabid with indignation and frustration. It's a powerhouse performance, not subtle by any means, but affecting, maddening, galvanizing. By the time the movie's over, you want to make this guy governor of New York.
The script by Valerie Curtin and Barry Levinson is the film's greatest strength. Years later I could still quote from it line for line. It is funny, clever and insane by turns with enough wildly believable ironies for ten courtroom dramas. Corrupt supposed officers of the court spout on about ethics yet are not above blackmail. The wealthy and connected enjoy privileges, while the bureaucracy grinds up the unsuspecting.
Director Jewison gave everything a professional polish, but then wisely stayed out of the way of his star. This was Pacino's stage and he owned it.
Be prepared to have your world rocked. There are few modern actors who would even attempt a role like this. They want the audience to like them. Pacino just wants to be heard. And he'll yell to make that happen.
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