By: Henry J. Fromage (Five Beers) -
After drawing the airport novel Matthew McConaughey-led The Lincoln Lawyer this weekend, I decided to fill in one of those “how have you not seen that?” blanks and watch A Time to Kill.
This one was penned by John Grisham, and tells the story of a black man, played by Samuel L. Jackson, who guns down two rednecks in a courthouse, who had confessed to raping his 10 year old daughter.He appeals to a local lawyer, played by McConaughey, to defend him via the temporary insanity plea.Between an unsympathetic court and jury and increasing pressure by the Ku Klux Klan, the chips are really stacked against them.
Sam Jackson’s dealt with worse
The cast in this is stellar, with Jackson, McConaughey, Sandra Bullock, Oliver Platt, Kevin Spacey, and both Sutherlands.With only about three minutes of screen time, Chris Cooper may have topped them all, though, playing the prison guard Jackson accidentally shoots along with the rednecks.
McConaughey was lauded as a rising star after this one, and it’s easy to see why.Hopefully he’ll bring some of the same effortless acting and believability to his latest legal thriller.A final nod to the guilty pleasures like Jackson’s “They deserved to die, and I hope they burn in hell!” sound bite and a KKK Grand Dragon in flames.
The one member of the cast to suck it up is Ashley Judd, and while she gets no favors from the writer, she doesn’t help herself with dead eyes and melodrama.
Speaking of the writer, that culprit is Akiva Goldsmith of luminaries such as Lost in Space, The Da Vinci Code, and his pinnacle work, Batman and Robin, also directed by this one’s helmer, Joel Schumaker.That this team didn’t create a tower of shit as tall as that again is an accomplishment in itself, but their general lack of talent contributes to the overall generic flavor of the movie.
They accomplish this by the tried and true method of resorting to caricatures whenever possible.I keep using rednecks because the rapists are portrayed as that through and through; mulleted, toothless, and with a Confederate flag on their beat-up pickup truck.This is passable because they’re the villains, and we’re not supposed to empathize with them.
That’s not the case with the black people in the movie, but by and large they’re caricatures all the same.Goldsmith seems to vaguely remember hearing something about black people from Gone With the Wind and Song of the South.Really only Samuel L. is able to rise above this, probably because he’s invincible.
This feeds into the main problem with the movie.It’s supposed to be a hard-hitting issues movie, explaining vigilante justice, the death penalty, and race relations.When you try to incorporate all of that into a fill-in-the-blank Hollywood formula you may get some entertaining moments, but the themes ring hollow.
This is pure Hollywood junk food.It’s got a pretty wrapper and tastes good going down, but those second-rate ingredients will get you every time.
Bonus Drinking Game
Take a Drink: whenever you see a stereotype
Take a Drink: for every KKK reference
Drink a Shot: whenever Samuel L. Jackson says something awesome