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Overall Rating

Awesome: 11.11%
Worth A Look: 11.11%
Just Average77.78%
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1 review, 3 user ratings

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From the Hip
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by Jack Sommersby

"A Decent-Enough Courtroom Tale"
3 stars

It's not the kind of movie that's thought-provoking or complex, but it's never boring and offers up a few standout scenes.

After giving one of the most obnoxious performances ever committed to celluloid in the atrocious crime picture Blue City, just one year later Judd Nelson has semi-redeemed himself with a perfectly serviceable performance as first-year Boston attorney Robin Weathers in the slight but enjoyable courtroom comedy/drama From the Hip. Tired of proofreading and researching and other subsidiary duties at the fancy law firm he's employed at, Robin's hungry to try his first case, and through some sneaky maneuvers he manages to get assigned to a nothing of a case involving one of the firm's biggest clients, a bank president who punched a co-worker -- the man doesn't deny what he did; he only wants Robin to stretch the trial out from one day to three to add to the plaintiff's legal costs. But through imagination and brazen courtroom antics, Robin turns it into a First Amendment crusade that embarrasses the priggish partners in his firm yet catches the attention of the local media. He wins the case, and rather than being fired he's promoted to junior partner in light of the several new clients the firm has attained because of the publicity. Thus far the movie is about as believable as "compassionate conservatism," but the co-writer and director, Bob Clark, who gave us the entertaining teen comedy Porky's and the notorious Sylvester Stallone/Dolly Parton stinker Rhinestone, has so far acquitted himself adequately. Robin's given the nickname "Stormy" by the media, and he's riding high until the firm, in a plan to get him knocked down the totem pole a few notches, assigns him what everyone thinks is a can't-win case -- that of university English professor Douglas Benoit (John Hurt), who's been accused of murdering the call girl he had several trysts with. The body hasn't been recovered, but bloodied clothes and hammer were found under the seat of Benoit's car; Benoit professes his innocence and refuses any offers of a plea bargain. And Robin finds himself in way over his head: as is revealed at the halfway mark, he and the public prosecutor were in cahoots in orchestrating the sensationalistic shenanigans of his first trial; defending someone on a first-degree murder charge and the deck not stacked in his favor, Robin, unsuccessful in using "normal" courtroom tactics, knows he has to give the trial "Stormy," ranging from a rabbit under the witness chair, a vibrator in the prosecutor's briefcase, and brandishing a hammer in the threatening direction of the jury box, to name just a few.

Overlong and odious in its disposable throwaway humor of sophomoric hijinks with Robin and his friends, From the Hip mixes comedy and drama, and surprisingly manages to keep the tone from jarring. Clark hasn't exactly developed anything of a distinctive style or technique, but, with the help of that fabulous cinematographer Dante (Manhunter) Spinotti, working in widescreen he's fashioned a handsome-looking production; and aside from a dreadful monologue with Robin in bed with his girlfriend spelling out everything we've already surmised, and the unctuous use of red lighting on Hurt's face off a stain-glass window to emphasize his duplicitousness, nothing is of the boo-hiss variety that infected Clark's last effort, the awful Turk 182!. The dialogue is generally good, and the movie tactfully exploits a serious issue: that of the moral dilemma shouldered by a conscientious attorney who believes his client to be guilty of a horrifying crime yet is bound by duty to serve that client's best interests. Hurt's galvanizing portrait of the megalomaniacal, conscience-deprived Benoit is something to see. Except for his understated assassin in Stephen Frears's The Hit, Hurt has mostly played soulful, mournful victims, so it's a real kick to see him tear into his villainous role like it were Steak tartare -- he has such concentrated intensity that he threatens to take the movie to a whole new level; it's only the routine dramatic structure that harnesses this. He's so much the superior actor that you feel sorry for the game but limited Nelson in their scenes together. Nelson has been fine in supporting roles (the overrated The Breakfast Club, the underrated St. Elmo's Fire), but as was the case in Making the Grade and here, he doesn't have the resources to sustain interest as a leading man; he isn't lazy, and certainly he's given his all in trying to bring Robin to life, it's just that his all simply isn't good enough -- Nelson fills the role only to about seventy percent of its capacity. (You can't help being reminded of the bland Christopher Reeve having each and every scene effortlessly stolen from him by the dynamic Morgan Freeman in Street Smart.) Still, Nelson doesn't disgrace himself, and if he can learn to actually connect with the person he's acting alongside rather than regarding him or her as the object before and after his line reading, he might start growing as an actor. From the Hip has its flaws, but it manages to get in and out of scenes with deftness, and, despite its whopping implausibility, justify our involvement more often than not.

The DVD from the good folks at Anchor Bay Entertainment offers up an excellent picture and decent audio, though the special features are scant aside from a theatrical trailer.

link directly to this review at http://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=3110&reviewer=327
originally posted: 02/23/14 21:47:42
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User Comments

2/13/05 Jeff Anderson The last great Bob Clark film! Nelson has lots of great moments, but Hurt is a POWERHOUSE!! 5 stars
7/08/03 natasha_theobald pretty clever and often funny; Nelson and Hurt are great 4 stars
11/22/02 Charles Tatum No worse than the current glut of lawyer TV shows 3 stars
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  02-Feb-1987 (PG-13)



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