(1996)

Sooner or later, a man who wears two faces forgets which one is real.

An arrogant, high-powered attorney takes on the case of a poor altar boy found running away from the scene of the grisly murder of the bishop who has taken him in. The case gets a lot more complex when the accused reveals that there may or may not have been a third person in the room.

I was never the greatest fan of Richard Gere, but this is certainly one of his better performances. He is cocky lawyer "Vail", adept at ensuring his criminal fraternity clients evade justice. When the shocking news that an archbishop has been savagely murdered is announced, he decides on a bit of pro-bono work to defend the young "Aaron" (Ed Norton) against the prosecuting skills of his ex-girlfriend "Janet" (Laura Linney). As the courtroom drama unfolds, though, we soon establish that there are undertones that call into question not just who did what to whom, but also the integrity of the victim and of many of his well-connected associates. The film belongs to Norton, though. As his character develops, with the assistance of probing psychologist "Molly" (Frances McDormand), we discover that there are quirks to his character that this actor delivers superbly. So much falls into place in the last ten minutes, or so, before a denouement that is both unexpected and perversely quite fitting. It is a bit too long, and takes maybe half an hour before it starts to simmer; but once the plot starts to advance in earnest, this becomes a superior crime thriller with twists, turns and strong performances throughout.

Paramount, Rysher Entertainment by Gregory Hoblit, William Diehl, Steve Shagan, Ann Biderman.
Stars: Richard Gere, Laura Linney, Edward Norton.

Genres: Crime, Drama, Mystery

Keywords: corruption based on novel or book bishop court case pornographic video court psychopath whodunit legal drama legal thriller

04/03/1996

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