Sunday, 20 May 2012

Film Review: A TIME TO KILL (1996)

A Time to Kill - poster Director: Joel Schumacher
Writers: John Grisham (novel), Akiva Goldsman (screenplay)
Running time: 149 mins (approx)
Certification (UK): 15

Genre: Crime/Drama/Thriller
UK Release date: 13th September 1996

Watched on Sky+ Sunday 20th May 2011.


I must admit to being partial to a decent courtroom drama and, having spotted this one in the listings, decided to give it a look. It looked a decent cast and with it being based on a John Grisham novel, I thought it couldn’t be all that bad. You’ll be pleased to know I wasn’t far off the mark; it is pretty good, without being great. I will explain more after this very brief summary.

A Time to Kill - 1 When Carl Lee Hailey is convicted of the murder of two white men who were on trial for the rape and attempted murder of his ten year old daughter, it falls upon young attorney, Jake Tyler Brigance to defend him. His opponent will be the more experienced and very confident D.A. Rufus Buckley. The events take place in a small town in Mississippi and, of course, with it being a race crime, there is a lot of opposition to the defence. Some of which comes in the form of one of the murdered men’s brother, Freddie Lee Cobb, who contacts the KKK for support. Brigance is aided by his friend, and fellow lawyer, Harry Rex Vonner, and law student, Ellen Roark. He also has the support of his disgraced mentor, Lucien Wilbanks. The defence enters a plea of temporary insanity, but can they make it stick? Well, you guessed it, I’m not going to tell you here or the Spoiler Police (Mississippi Division) will be making me eat grits (whatever that is)… (again).

A Time to Kill - 2 Although well made I did find this film suffered from getting a little too involved in the things surrounding the trial. For a courtroom drama, it seemed to take an awfully long time to get to the courtroom. The performances were all pretty good; Matthew McConaughey is getting pretty good at playing the Grisham lawyer and this is no exception, he plays Jake Tyler Brigance with great panache. Sandra Bullock reminded us again of what a good actress she can be as Ellen Roark and Samuel L. Jackson played Carl Lee Hailey with all the skill and passion you’d expect. Kevin Spacey did a decent job as D.A. Rufus Buckley, as did Oliver Platt as Harry Rex Vonner. Also worthy of note were; Charles S. Dutton as Sheriff Ozzie Walls, Brenda Fricker as Ethel Twitty, Donald Sutherland as Lucien Wilbanks, Kiefer Sutherland as Freddie Lee Cobb (nice to see him playing a bad guy for a change), Patrick McGoohan as Judge Omar Noose and Ashley Judd as Carla Brigance.

A Time to Kill - 3 Although I enjoyed it, I did find this film way too long. It gets lost in too much detail part way through and there is an awful lot of stuff in there that has very little baring on the case in hand. I did also find it a little predictable in places, but then I have seen a few Grisham adaptations and they do tend to follow a similar pattern. As a revenge thriller, it’s not all that good, but as a courtroom drama, I found it quite riveting. It’s still quite an enjoyable watch, films about justice generally are (I find) and so I can just about deem it RECOMMENDED (even if it’s a tad long).

My score: 6.5/10

IMDb Score: 7.1/10 (based on 51,195 votes at the time of going to press).

MetaScore: 54/100: (Based on 21 critic reviews provided by at the time of going to press).

Rotten Tomatoes ‘Tomatometer’ Score: 67/100 (based on 51 reviews counted at the time of going to press).

Rotten Tomatoes ‘Audience’ Score: 59/100 ‘Want to See’ (based on 88,981 user ratings counted at the time of going to press).

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A Time to Kill - 5 FAVOURITE QUOTES:
Sheriff: [to rapists] If I get any trouble outta you guys, I'm gonna integrate this jail.

Judge Omar Noose: Good afternoon, citizens. Be seated. Counsel. And you, sir, are you Carl Lee Hailey?
Carl Lee Hailey: Yes sir.
Judge Omar Noose: Mr. Hailey, I am holding a copy of an indictment returned by the grand jury of Mississippi presenting that "Carl Lee Hailey did murder Billy Ray Cobb, a human being, and James Willis Willard, a human being, and did attempt to kill Dwayne Looney, a peace officer, against the peace and dignity of the State of Mississippi. Do you understand the charges against you?
Carl Lee Hailey: Yes sir.
Judge Omar Noose: How do you wish to plead?
Carl Lee Hailey: [pause] Not guilty, Your Honor.
Jake Tyler Brigance: The defence enters a plea of not guilty by reason of insanity, Your Honor.
Judge Omar Noose: Your trial is set for July 22. All pre-trial motions and matters are to be filed no later than July 8. Is there anything further?
D.A. Rufus Buckley: Yes, Your Honor. In the response to the insanity plea, the state requests the defendant be examined by its own doctors.
Judge Omar Noose: Granted
D.A. Rufus Buckley: Additionally, the state opposes any request for bail.
Jake Tyler Brigance: But Your Honor, we have not yet asked for bail. Now Governor Buckley cannot oppose a request until one is made. He should have learned that in law school.
D.A. Rufus Buckley: Your Honor, even Mr. Brigance's meagre legal experience should have taught him two things; number one, I have not been elected governor... yet. And number two, he is required to request bail; the state opposes any such request.
Judge Omar Noose: Well in the future why don't we just wait until he makes the request?
[DA Rufus Buckley nods lightly with a slight smile]
Jake Tyler Brigance: Thank you Your Honor. Your Honor we would like to request bail.
Judge Omar Noose: [Quickly] Denied. I have never allowed bail in a capital murder case and I don't feel that an exception is called for today.

A Time to Kill - 6 Harry Rex Vonner: Lucien, I thought you were dead.
Lucien Wilbanks: I'm trying.

Ellen Roark: I keep thinking, what would Jake do? What would my father do? What would Lucien do?
Harry Rex Vonner: Well see, there's your problem. What you should be thinking is, what would Harry Rex do?
Ellen Roark: What would Harry Rex do?
Harry Rex Vonner: Cheat. Cheat like crazy.

D.A. Rufus Buckley: Do you think men who kidnap a child should be free in 10 years?
Carl Lee Hailey: No sir.
D.A. Rufus Buckley: Do you think two men who rape a child should be free in 10 years?
Carl Lee Hailey: No, sir.
D.A. Rufus Buckley: Do you think two men who hang a child should be free in 10 years?
Carl Lee Hailey: No.
D.A. Rufus Buckley: Well what do you think should happen? What would be a fair sentence?
Jake Tyler Brigance: Objection!
D.A. Rufus Buckley: Do you think they should deserve to die?
Jake Tyler Brigance: Don't answer that Carl Lee!
D.A. Rufus Buckley: Do you think they should deserve to die?
Carl Lee Hailey: Yes, they deserved to die and I hope they burn in hell!

Carl Lee Hailey: You're white, and I'm black. See Jake, you think just like them. That's why I picked you. You're one of them, don't you see? Oh, you think you ain't 'cause you eat in Claude's and you out there trying to get me off on TV talking about black and white. But the fact is you're just like all the rest of them. When you look at me, you don't see a man, you see a black man.

A Time to Kill - 8 LINKS:
(Note: All were working at the time of going to press)

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