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3 reviews, 50 user ratings

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Time to Kill, A
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by Rob Gonsalves

"More useless Grisham."
3 stars

One of the many curiosities about American pop culture is that we hate lawyers, yet we love stories about them. We'll stand in line for 'Primal Fear,' we'll buy John Grisham and Scott Turow novels. There is a caveat, though: we'll only back fictional lawyers if (A) they're in mortal danger; (B) they're sexy; or (C) they're defending an underdog client.

A Time to Kill, based on Grisham's first novel (written before he achieved hardcover nirvana), covers all the above bases -- it's A, B, C, and probably the rest of the alphabet. No cliché is left unturned, no emotional button left unpushed. But that's par for the course. You don't go to these legal-eagle movies for blazing originality or searing complexity. You go to see the underdog buck the odds.

The hero -- Jake Brigance (Matthew McConaughey), a young, ambitious Mississippi lawyer with his own tiny practice -- is reportedly based on Grisham, who was one of the film's producers. Therefore, Jake comes across so saintly and brave that he makes James Stewart's lawyer characters look like ambulance chasers. McConaughey, a fine actor, doesn't need this much help to win us over. The movie sells him too aggressively.

Jake soon finds himself at the wheel of the case of a lifetime. Two vicious rednecks have raped a ten-year-old black girl; the girl's father, Carl Lee Hailey (Samuel L. Jackson), waits for the rapists outside the courtroom with an assault rifle and starts blasting. The result: two dead rednecks, plus a wounded police officer. There's no doubt that Carl is guilty of pulling the trigger. The question -- a stickier one -- is whether he can be found innocent of murder. Jake takes his case.

Director Joel Schumacher, who also adapted Grisham's The Client, doesn't waste many frames on the issue of vigilante justice. The rednecks were scum; they deserved to die. Case closed. Does Carl deserve to get the death penalty if found guilty? No. But what if he accidentally killed (instead of wounded) that officer? Or what if the police had arrested the wrong guys, and Carl ended up killing innocent men? You see what I mean about these movies. Reality is a whole other thing.

When it comes to pace and narrative, Schumacher is hopeless (as the inept Batman Forever showed). But give him great actors to point a camera at, and he can coast. Jackson paints a detailed portrait of a man torn by rage. Kevin Spacey, as the smug DA, manages to be perversely likable even when he's trashing Jake's witnesses. Sandra Bullock, whose star power helped get the film made, takes a small role as Jake's cocky researcher -- and damsel in distress. She's pretty much wasted.

After many traumas, challenges, and KKK cross-burnings, Jake goes into full Jimmy Stewart mode for his summation -- a masterpiece of manipulation. 'A Time to Kill' is solid. The performances are strong, the issues provocative. I was glad I saw it, but I was also glad when it was over; my chest was sore from Schumacher aiming wallops at my heart. Sometimes he connected, but I wished he'd aimed more often at my brain.

link directly to this review at http://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=607&reviewer=416
originally posted: 01/24/07 17:48:37
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User Comments

3/09/14 FireWithFire Should be titled "A Time To Kill Whites", or just plain "Kill Whitey" 1 stars
10/24/10 Jeff Wilder Easily the best Grisham adaptation. Has more emotional connection than they usually do. 4 stars
2/21/09 action movie fan a powerful story-clever and unique and well worth it 5 stars
7/25/08 The Dork Knight The book sucked, too 2 stars
1/27/08 Pamela White Movie reveals how color blind we truely are 5 stars
12/11/07 bronson Mejia Donald Southerland hugging "The bottle" was the final straw for me. Sorry acting. 2 stars
2/08/07 Bitchflaps Laughably overblown and self-important. McConaughy is dreadful. 1 stars
9/11/06 Sepi53 Great cast in a super film!! 5 stars
8/09/06 Dragon The Artist I hate racism, I hate rednecks, I love equallity, I love this film. Legendary 5 stars
11/23/05 Lennie worth seeing 4 stars
6/12/05 Steve Apparently Chris Parry missed the beginning of this movie or he would have got the shooting 4 stars
12/26/04 mjoc Powerful. Best Grisham on film. 5 stars
10/25/04 Naka McCOnaghey is fantastic, surprisingly; very human preformance. Decent film overall. 4 stars
10/25/04 R.W. Welch Heavily cliche'd legal potboiler has Bullock miscast tho McConaughey does well. 3 stars
10/23/04 Y. Roger Gregory Don't even remember Ashley Judd being in it, but it's just as bad as if I did! 1 stars
6/05/04 john bale Brilliant cast and script make this a fine adaption of the novel 5 stars
5/31/04 Nobody fascinating 5 stars
5/30/04 Jess I absolutely love this movie, well explored social issues. 5 stars
4/27/04 LIAM JACKSON fantastic. i wish all depraved racist filth get wot those 2 redneck fucks got! 5 stars
1/26/04 Chloe Brody wow - this was fucking awesome!!! Read the book too! 5 stars
10/13/03 Holly Awesome movie. Best I've seen yet 5 stars
7/25/03 tina great shit 5 stars
4/16/03 Y. Roger Gregory Don't even remember Ashley Judd being in it, but it's just as bad as if I did! 1 stars
3/02/03 Jack Sommersby Overblown and dramatically obvious. A boilerplate of uncouth sensationalism. 1 stars
2/02/03 Charles Tatum I cannot believe how caught up in this I was 5 stars
11/24/02 Kyle Riveting! 5 stars
3/03/02 Eileen Overstreet W/ Judd, Bullock & Jackson, lacked only John Travolta to complete the four pillars of Satan 1 stars
2/27/02 Shrike Good stuff, JG tale that hits the mark 4 stars
11/27/01 sdfr myopic, skewed and bigoted fantasy with truly objectionable views on white-black relations 1 stars
9/05/01 Butterbean Over the top 3 stars
8/08/01 E-Funk The best Grisham adaptation. McConnaughey shines as does the rest of the cast. 4 stars
6/22/01 Justin Cheung I love this movie, simple as that, Highly reccommend it! 5 stars
4/18/01 Tam Fantastic concept, very original. Fab courtroom scenes, believable performances. 4 stars
3/31/01 ~*Co_Co*~ What words could describe this utterly fabulous film? Scary, thrilling, fantastic! The best 5 stars
3/05/00 Kyle Broflovski Superior. Excellent. A social message that just can't be ignored. 5 stars
1/23/00 Casey Jarzabek SAMUEL L IS THE FUNNIEST ACTOR I KNOW 1 stars
1/06/00 JussMatt A real solid movie for a change!! Great casting! A must see! 5 stars
9/21/99 Allison Johanning Great movie 5 stars
7/19/99 Matthew Bartley Not particulary intelligent,but gripping and moving 4 stars
1/24/99 Chloe Marie Elestenogoph (clatter@hotmail.com) It bit. What can you expect from Joel Shitmaker? 2 stars
1/16/99 Melissa Critics aside, loved McConaughey, Jackson and Spacey. See it if you haven't. 5 stars
11/26/98 Mr.Pink Well-acted nonsense. 3 stars
11/24/98 Fred The only good Grisham film. But I want to see ALL the Klansmen burn up. 4 stars
9/22/98 Jason Rosenbaum In my top 20 favorites. 5 stars
9/07/98 Johny Who's moronic idea was it to have McConnaughey and Bullock lead a drama? 2 stars
9/03/98 Badass Jackson is good in an otherwise put-on of a drama 3 stars
8/31/98 MikeF This was ok. it got boring in some parts. but it was still ok. 4 stars
8/29/98 Mister Whoopee Bullock and boring man aside, this was quite enjoyable. 4 stars
8/24/98 The Capital City Goofball Bullock + McConnaughey = The worst combo in Hollywood. Ever. Truth. 2 stars
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  24-Jul-1996 (R)



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