14 July 2002 | rsoonsa
If only the courtroom scenes were better crafted.....
Brian Dennehy portrays Charlie Sloan, a recovering alcoholic defense attorney back from the lower depths and hired by an old flame, Robin Harwell (Bonnie Bedelia), to represent her stepdaughter Angel (Fairuza Balk) in a murder case wherein Angel has been arrested for the slaying of her father and Robin's husband, wealthy Harrison Harwell, a case less than promising for the defendant after being snared in hiding with bloody hands and clothing, and possibly coerced into giving a videotaped confession. This is by way of being a vanity film for the always pleasing Dennehy who is seldom off the screen and who writes and directs here as well, and he is adept at building to a mood of suspense, although his acting range limitations are brought into focus. The cast produces pleasure with nice performances from Michael Nussbaum and Joe Grifasi, while Bruce McGill dominates his scenes as is his custom, and only the generally reliable Ken Pogue somehow not being able to act his way out of a box this time; it is, however, Fairuza Balk who contributes a star turn, by understanding her part and instinctively providing always appropriate shadings to her role. Excellent cinematography from Neil Roach and editing by Douglas Ibold also enhance this affair, making its weakness in the climactic courtroom scenes so disappointing, for when the cast must park itself before a judge, hackneyed scripting takes over, and the eventual post-juridical surprises lose their impact.