When a homeless man is accused of murdering a Justice Department file clerk, a public defender is tasked with mounting his legal defense.When a homeless man is accused of murdering a Justice Department file clerk, a public defender is tasked with mounting his legal defense.When a homeless man is accused of murdering a Justice Department file clerk, a public defender is tasked with mounting his legal defense.
The aspect that makes this movie a gem is the fine acting: Cher as the overworked and underpaid public defender, Liam Neeson as the deaf/mute defendant in one of his first major roles, Dennis Quaid as a sexy lobbyist (often messing around with congresswomen to get votes for his industry) turned juror turned amateur sleuth, and John Mahoney as the stoic judge at the trial. A lot of it is pure fantasy but the moments in the courtroom are actually very much like a real courtroom in its obsessiveness with procedure and protocol.
The story begins with the suicide of a prominent Supreme Court Justice and the subsequent murder of his assistant who has been slashed to death. When police investigate the surrounding area, they find a homeless man sporting a knife and in possession of the victim's wallet which contained a king's ransom: $9. Cher is appointed to take the case, and Quaid ends up becoming one of the jurors. Because of the suicide at the beginning of the film, Judge Helms (Mahoney) becomes one of the people on the US President's short list to fill the Supreme Court vacancy. Helms requests to preside over the murder case to free up his later schedule in order that he be considered for the vacancy.
Several scenes take us into the bowels of the homeless of Washington DC. We see a lot of lawyers, a lot of law libraries and a lot of knives. Every homeless person appears to wield a knife. Cher with the unlawful help of Quaid (lawyers and jurors in the same trial are not supposed to commiserate, let alone team up) stumbles upon some evidence that makes the case much more complex. A thoroughly enjoyable courtroom drama with enough action to keep you on the edge of your seat, and an interesting commentary on the justice system and how it handles the poor and the homeless. Unfortunately, public defenders are probably not as successful as Cher appears to be.
- Mar 23, 2008