5.7/10
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24 user 20 critic

Criminal Law (1988)

Oldman plays a lawyer who defends a killer, but, soon after he wins he finds out that the killer is guilty.

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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
... Ben Chase
... Martin Thiel
... Det. Stillwell
... Ellen Faulkner
... Det. Mesel
Sean McCann ... Jacob Fischer
... Gary Hull
... Prof. Clemens
Karen Woolridge ... Claudia Curwen (as Karen Wooldridge)
... Isabel Fuertes
Rob Roy ... Ethan Parks
Terrence Labrosse ... Judge (as Terrence La Brosse)
Barbara Jones ... Sandra Massina (as Barbara Ann Jones)
Jeannie Walker ... Mrs. Monroe
... Jackson
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Storyline

A rising young attorney successfully defends a man accused of murder, only to have the same type of murder then happen again. Right away the previously defended man hires the attorney again, and although the attorney is quite certain that he is the killer, he agrees to again defend him... much to the consternation of his friends. However, he explains that by being his attorney he will be better able to catch the man in a mistake... and on this the rest of the film develops, with the killer playing a cat and mouse game with the attorney until, at last, they both must recognize that they are not all that different. Written by BOB STEBBINS <stebinsbob@aol.com>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Taglines:

"Whoever fights monsters should see to it that in the process he does not become a monster." - Nietzsche. See more »

Genres:

Crime | Thriller

Certificate:

R | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

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Details

Country:

Language:

Release Date:

28 April 1989 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Der Frauenmörder  »

Filming Locations:

 »

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Box Office

Gross USA:

$9,974,446
See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

Production Co:

,  »
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Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

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Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
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Did You Know?

Trivia

Boston was portrayed in the movie by the two Canadian cities of Montreal, and Québec City, Québec. See more »

Goofs

Fuel pumps display amounts in liters even though the location is supposed to be in Massachusetts. See more »

Quotes

Martin Thiel: I love the rain... it washes everything away... makes it clean.
See more »

Connections

Referenced in Resident Alien (1990) See more »

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User Reviews

 
An Early Classic for Oldman and Bacon
2 August 2005 | by See all my reviews

Criminal Law is a thriller of the first order.

Performances were outstanding by all. The Martin Thiel character, played to dizzy, frightening reality by Bacon, is chilling, to say the least.

The courtroom scenes were excellently written and performed. Oldman, as Ben Chase, acts at a high level as he brings his character through the torturous conflict between his professional ethics and his own humanity. Without, I might add, any British accent showing through, but with a clearly intentional Irish brogue when his blood is up. Nice work, that.

Mark Kasdan--author of Silverado and brother of writer/director/producer Lawrence Kasdan--writes a spare story with immediate suspense. He neatly puts attorney and client in a cat-and-mouse game, where Chase's silence, or betrayal, are equally dangerous for him, and for his love interest, Ellen, played well by Karen Young (Heat, 9-1/2 Weeks).

Elizabeth Shepherd plays the icy mother to perfection. Her blind devotion to her son, along with the absence of any physical display of emotion, are together at the root of the Thiel family dysfunction. This interpersonal rift makes the Martin Thiel character appear stiff and creepy and adds to the confusion and suspense of his innocence or guilt in the string of grisly sex murders that pepper this film.

The use of fire and rain throughout also enrages the imagination and adds clearly to the loathing an animal fear in Criminal Law. It is easy for the viewer to feel stalked or hunted in these parts of the movie--deliciously!

Tess Harper and Joe Don Baker have critical but minor roles, and do nothing to spoil the suspense of it. Both get well into their characters, though, somehow, Harper's Det. Stillwell and Shepherd's Dr. Thiel persona seem too similar...a minor overall script chemistry complaint, at that.

This is a thoroughly enjoyable movie, much better than most we see today almost 20 years hence. Yes, there are minor scripting flaws that I think the true movie-lover will forgive. Any fan of Kevin Bacon and/or Gary Oldman who hasn't seen this film is missing something terrific.


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