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  • A truly tense film that takes place in present-day Mississippi. A young African-American girl has been raped by two backwoods white men. Her father (Samuel L. Jackson) takes the law into his own hands and kills the two. Now the small town becomes a hot-bed of controversy as a murder trial starts that gets national attention. There is the defense attorney (Matthew McConaughey) and his bright-eyed assistant (Sandra Bullock) against prosecutor supreme Kevin Spacey. A really solid film that works because of a screenplay that pulls no punches and revolutionary direction by Joel Schumacher. A great ensemble cast all excel here and the film captures a place that has turned into a media circus very well. A film that you will watch with clenched fists. An intense experience. 4 stars out of 5.
  • I was very much drawn into the book, and thought that it would be hard to get the same feeling out in a movie.

    At the beginning I thought I was right. From the beginning I was thinking "they left out a whole mess of details." I was irritated that they did not develop the characters better like in the book.

    But by the 3rd quarter of the movie this was the last thought in my mind. And by the end I understood that the screenwriter had very skillfully budgeted his (limited) screen time for the most important parts of the movie, where it is well spent.

    I think the acting of the principals was very good, and I found especially for Sandra Bullock as Ellen Roark - who was the most believable character. Although the rest of the acting was very good, I felt she was the most believable.

    Which raises the main weakness of the movie, as good as it was, having read the book, I could not help being reminded that most of the characters were in fact, actors in a movie. Except for Ms. Bullock, there was a bit of woodeness to the "folk" in this small southern town. Also the plot is a bit contrived (but true to the novel). Most important is that (for me) it worked. I was moved. Its a very good movie.
  • I had to stop reading the commentaries, because some people thought they were attorneys and rambled-on about injustice. My Friends, in the era this film is about, none of the story would be unusual. There are prejudices much worse even now - I was amazed that one person actually compared this wonderful film to "Crash": give the world a break!! If "Crash"...Ugh!...proved anything, is was to reassure EVERYONE racism is still America's cancer.

    I am from Biloxi, Mississippi - along the Gulf Coast. That city has always been a melting-pot, so many different races live together. In my youth, it was Czechs and other European races. Today, can you believe, it is Vietnamese ! The city has also always been a tourist-area, and always had some form of gambling before it became The Las Vegas of the South - perhaps that has tempered the people there from the state's interior's citizens. Canton - during the '60s - would have been just as it is portrayed in this film.

    Because of the many TV-courtroom sitcoms, etc., today's population would wonder why there was no strongly-worded assurance the district attorney planned "to appeal". What? We are not talking about modern-day justice in this film - Shamefully, this is Mississippi at its worst, and I know about that. We didn't have this kind of racism in Biloxi then, perhaps because African-Americans "stayed in their place", a shameful statement if there ever were one. All the foreigners and citizens of other states who are not aware of those days - how can you comment on the film, except to give a critique ? Like many of the people who wrote commentaries, I can watch this film once-a-month. ALL of the cast gave a superb performance; the story did not drag; the places that were filmed were true-to-life; to some folk's surprise, there ARE people who live in the state who do not speak like idiots: people think I'm English!; Mathew Mc was astounding and Sandra Bullock's performance was exactly as it should have been, as an activist "little rich girl"; Southern gave a true performance of a alcoholic lawyer; Sam Jackson was masterful and expressed the difference in being "white" and "black"; Kevin Stacy's portrayal of a Southern lawyer with all the connections, right on; I can think of no one who wasn't brilliantly cast.

    Missed by many people who made comments, this film is a statement that today we are brutally MEAN to one another: "Crash" re-states this fact, although it is not nearly as poetic. Do I own this film? You betcha!! I'll most likely have to buy another, and it will be money well-spent. Grishom knows how to get our attention, and "A Time to Kill" clearly demonstrates all who were involved in its making were determined to keep his story pure. Wake-up, People - many parts of our world are not pretty today......
  • I'm not sure why I didn't see this film when it came out, but I watched it for the first time last week and was blown away. "A time to kill" is not only very well done, but it shows the way racism is dealt with in an intertesting way. Every character is not only well developed, but the actors playing them make it totally believable.

    Kevin Spacey and Samuel L. Jackson, who remain two of the finest American actors are definetly one of the best parts of the film. I'm not really sure how this film was received when it was released, but I consider it to be one of the most well done films I've seen recently.
  • Courtroom dramas are well known for providing thrilling films, and that is exactly what 'A Time to Kill' thrives on; entertainment value. It is clear that the film, in spite of having some very potent themes, puts most of it's focus on being entertaining and it's actually not a bad film for it. Sometimes, films that want to be entertaining and have themes fall down because they're too entertaining and the themes get left by the wayside; but A Time to Kill puts its cards on the table from the start, and it's always clear what this film wants to do with itself. The plot follows a man who, after his daughter is raped and almost murdered, decides to take the law into his own hands. However, this man is also a black man living in a white supremacy state, and so the film injects a racism theme into it's plot, which is always going to mean that it will have some sort of social commentary within it. However, that isn't the most interesting comment that the film wants to make; as that plaudit falls to the idea of justice, and exactly what justice is.

    The film, based on a novel by crime writer John Grisham, presents an impossible situation to the viewer and central characters; what do you do when justice will prevail whatever the verdict? The viewer and the characters must then make a choice between the law and general morality, and it is there where the film draws it's most interesting plot point from. While, as mentioned, it's always clear that this movie is meant to entertain you; it's always nice to be given something to think about as well. A Time to Kill benefits immensely from an absolutely fabulous cast, which includes the likes of Samuel L. Jackson, Sandra Bullock, Kevin Spacey, Kiefer Sutherland, his father Donald Sutherland, Ashley Judd, Chris Cooper and more, all of which are lead by Matthew McConaughey. It is the lead that most lets the film down, as although McConaughey can definitely act, he's not quite charismatic enough to deliver a lead performance in front of that cast. Still, the movie is definitely very decent and although you probably wont hurt your brain watching it, it will entertain you.
  • This movie dealt with such a deplorable subject.. such a sickening act, without so much as one single gratuitously violent scene in the whole perfectly realised masterpiece.

    It's a chilling, thought-provoking, hard-hitting piece that's taut, absorbing, and impeccably well-paced.

    There are jaw-dropping performances by numerous top-flight actors here, not a-one letting the ball drop even once. Not one actor's time or talents were wasted in this extremely well thought-out project.. not one actor wasted a cent of the money we paid to see it.

    Matthew McConaughey's "Jake Brigance" was an incredibly lucky shot of an acting debut that he took and ran with like the wind, turning in an amazing, heart-stopping, truly star-making performance, which may prove to be the crowning achievement of his entire career when all is said and done.. It will be a treacherous climb to try and top it, certainly.

    Class act Donald Sutherland is superbly cast in a quiet, and profound role, as "Jake"'s, {now no longer practicing}, professor, a perfect fit, this role, for a man of such rare eloquence~ There is a sizzling sub-story going on between "Jake", a devoted family man, and Sandra Bullock's character that could not have been tighter, steamier, nor more well written and played out.

    I recommend this movie to anyone who believes in justice, who has a child, or only knows one.

    You want cheap, tawdry, sleazy, violent 'entertainment'? There's not one thing here for you~

    Killing cannot be considered "right" by any means; but sometimes it's just not as simple as "THOU SHALT NOT KILL".

    So many of us say, "I would kill for my children, {or other loved one's}!".. but would we? ..Would we be in the "right"?
  • Warning: Spoilers
    This tough filming of Grisham's novel about a black man's revenge for the brutal rape of his daughter by whites might lead one to some maxims for guidance of anyone in such a situation. Don't wait for the law to help when you know it won't. But, if you act on your own, be prepared for the worst. Don't always assume that someone different is automatically your enemy. That's racist mentality no matter from which end of the color spectrum you are observing. There are probably others one might deduce. This is a powerful and thought provoking film, well acted and produced. It puts the KKK in a true perspective as a bunch of neo-nazi thugs, and, mirabile dictu, there are no "obligatory sex scenes", at least not in the version I saw. My only cavil is the "happy" ending. It seems unlikely in the given environment, but then again maybe not.
  • One of the best dramas I've seen.

    Great performances from Samuel Jackson, Sandra Bullock and Matthew McConaughey.

    I've seen this movie four times and each time I see it, his closing speech has made me cry loudly.

    I highly recommend it. You won't regret it.
  • This one had me sitting on the edge of my seat. The 90s weren't as polite as the late 50s/ early 60s when we were riveted by "To Kill a Mockingbird", a book and film that author John Grisham credits as an influence to this story. Two "Good Ol Boy" racists go on a red-neck spree, disrespecting all things, women, and children. Their beer guzzling binge culminates in the rape and near murder of a 10 year old black girl. Samuel L Jackson plays her father...and he goes out for revenge, killing the two miscreants and seriously wounding a deputy sheriff in the process. The film there-after revolves around the very basic points : A. Can a Black man receive a fair trial even in the so-called "New South" after killing two white men...even though their crime was and is considered reprehensible by every decent human being? And B: Will the Black man receive competent legal representation and receive justice irrespective of his "vigilante" action which appears to many to be justified? What will be the fallout? Matt McConaughey's performance as the lawyer is slightly reminiscent of Gregory Peck in "Mockingbird". He has a moralistic reverence for the law, and endures the taunts of the townsfolk and his other encumbrances with fortitude. Sandra Bullock is convincing as the law student who wants to chime in and lend a hand for the experience. Don and Keifer Sutherland deliver solid support...the elder being a dis-barred lawyer who is ready with advice, the younger playing a racist Klansman out to get revenge for the two dead rednecks. The atmosphere hinges on the explosive as the racial tension builds, and it is a movie that is worth watching with a message worth pondering and remembering. See the film.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    "A Time To Kill" is based on the John Grisham novel - in Mississippi two drunken rednecks brutally rape and attempt to murder a young black girl. Her father, Carl Lee Hailey (Samuel L. Jackson) in his grief and anger shoots both men as they enter the courthouse for their pre-trial hearing and faces a trial that could lead to his execution if he is found guilty of their murder. An ambitious young lawyer, Jake Tyler Brigance (Matthew McConaughey) takes on his defence no matter what the cost to his family and friends who are under threat from the Klu Klux Klan.

    The problem with the central premise is that Carl Lee Hailey guns down the two men before their trial so we don't know for certain they are going to get away with their terrible crime - and with the evidence against them it would be a racist jury indeed who found them innocent. This takes away a lot of the empathy for his plight as he clearly premeditates the killing and he is prepared to leave his family destitute if he receives life imprisonment or the death penalty. The only defence really offered is that it is racist to consider his actions unjustified, even though he manages to badly wound a police officer (leading to the amputation of his leg) - clearly an accident, but firing guns in crowded rooms is bound to cause that kind of mishap. The direction and editing do not help, with pointless scenes such as those that set to prove that Lee Hailey killed the men - a fact that wasn't in doubt. The handling of the whole racism issue is clumsily handled, as we are frequently told that the area is racist and yet they elected a black sheriff.

    Brigance is hardly a sympathetic character either, spending the evening before the start of the biggest trial of his career getting drunk and flirting with one of his helpers while his wife is out of town. The cast of the film is hard to fault, with even minor roles portrayed by famous artists such as Sandra Bullock, Kevin Spacey, Donald and Kiefer Sutherland and Patrick McGoohan. This tends to be a distraction as very few of the supporting cast have much to do. There is a strong script and fine acting all round, though McConaughey in his breakthrough role is somewhat overshadowed by the rest of the starry cast. The script is strong, in particular the closing speech of the trial is very powerful as it describes in greater detail the full horror of the actions of the murdered men. However the script in the main is heavily biased towards a very specific agenda and is highly manipulative.

    Overall the film left a bad taste in my mouth when the credits rolled as the message it seemed to be delivering was that it is okay to be a vigilante and anyone who thinks Lee Hailey deserved punishment for his actions is a racist. While I felt sorry for him and did not think he deserved the death penalty, allowing him to get away scot-free was going too far in my opinion. Not having read the novel I am unable to say where exactly the fault lies, but the cast despite their best efforts are unable to raise the material beyond its limitations.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    There are other reviews here expressing similar views, but I still feel impelled to add my comments. The film is generally well-made from a technical point of view, apart from possibly being too long. The acting is mostly very good, although Kevin Spacey isn't given much space to explain his character's motivation (apparently ambition rather than racism), and Sandra Bullock's only function seems to be as eye candy, which she admittedly manages very well.

    At a fundamental level the film's heart is in the right place in being opposed to racism, and I get the impression that it tried to set out to be some kind of definitive treatment of racism, perhaps why so many famous names agreed to be in it. However, it seems the writers bit off far more than they could chew (I haven't read the book, so I don't know how much of that is down to Grisham). The biggest problem, as many others have said, is that it ends up advocating vigilante justice. Aside from the fact that I don't agree with that position, I don't think that such a view actually helps the anti-racist cause at all - it's more likely to be applied to acquit white defendants who kill black victims. At the end the prosecutor invites the jury (and the audience) to imagine that the raped girl was white - but follow that through and imagine the defendant to be a white man who murdered black rapists ... in the end the message seems to be that it's OK to kill someone as long as you hate them enough. It's also convenient that the man killed was presented as totally evil and his guilt was in no doubt, which removes any of the moral ambiguity likely in a real case.

    Samuel L Jackson gives an excellent performance, but unfortunately this also undermines the plot - he comes across as someone with considerable integrity, but it's hard to believe that he would be willing to hide behind an insanity plea (and indeed he doesn't, when push comes to shove). We're presumably supposed to think that it's because he faces the death penalty, but in fact at one point he's offered a plea of manslaughter, although if you blink you might miss it. Why not take it, given that he must know his chances of acquittal are slim? Or if he wants to make a stand in court, why plead insanity?

    There are less serious flaws too. The medical experts, on whose testimony the case supposedly rests, are jokes - both are discredited for highly implausible reasons, and neither of them offers any real psychiatric diagnosis. The message seems to be that expert witnesses will say whatever they're asked to say, and shouldn't be believed. The fact that the injured policeman supports Jackson is moderately plausible, but still a bit convenient (and what if he had died?) I find it hard to believe that the KKK would march down the street in broad daylight. Other apparently serious crimes (riot, arson, kidnapping, attempted murder) go by without any visible attempt to detect or prosecute them. And the scene where the dog comes bounding back is ludicrous.

    My final reaction is to be left feeling rather dirty - as though I must be a racist because I disagree with the resolution. It may be that the film intended to explore different viewpoints and leave the audience to decide, but if so they seem to have forgotten it by the time they got to the end. The film did make me think about my views, read what other people thought here and add my own opinion, so at some level maybe it succeeded - but I worry that it may have re-inforced highly illiberal views in some people, which I hope is the opposite of what it intended.

    Final thought - try watching Law and Order, it covers issues like this with much more depth in about 38 minutes of screen time!
  • Warning: Spoilers
    A Time To Kill is based on John Grisham's first novel, the one he wrote before he was famous, and the one that didn't skyrocket him to fame. (That would be accomplished by "The Firm"). That's why this movie didn't get made until much later, after Grisham was off churning out meaningless books with the movie dollar signs fresh in his head. Unlike most of those, this book was actually about something. It had meat, it had weight, and it had heart.

    But it also had a fatal flaw, and this fatal flaw gets translated into the movie. Namely, "A Time To Kill" sets you up.

    Here we have a black man (Jackson), on trial for the murder of two white men who brutally raped and tortured his 10-year-old daughter. We have an underdog lawyer (McConaughey) battling the big bad system to save his client. And oh, by the way, the whole thing is set against the backdrop of racism in Mississippi, complete with hooded KKK men burning crosses.

    In other words, we're supposed to sympathize with Carl Lee Hailey. We're supposed to believe that a father who loves his daughter is justified in killing the men who raped her. We're supposed to feel the injustice of a system where a racist all-white jury could judge a black man who was just trying to avenge a brutal crime. We're supposed feel like we're standing alongside the people chanting "Free Carl Lee".

    But the racism issue is a smokescreen, and the whole thing is contrived. Carl Lee Hailey was a vigilante. Yes, there were mitigating circumstances for what he did, but the fact remains that he wasn't innocent. This would have been true no matter what his skin colour, or the skin colour of the assailants of his daughter, the judge, the jury, or anyone else.

    And what's so heavy-handed about this film is that it paints anyone who believes Carl Lee should have been convicted is a racist. The message seems to be that if you believe that the law shouldn't be taken into people's own hands, then you might as well be burning crosses on a lawn somewhere wearing a hood.

    This isn't the first time a heavy dose of sentimentalism is inserted into a story like this, and it won't be the last. As a movie, A Time To Kill stays pretty faithful to the book, and the acting isn't half bad. But it played the hand it had been dealt, really. Even a good cast can't elevate bad source material.
  • For me this is actually one of the best movies I've ever seen, not only 'cause of the great performances of all main- and supporting actors, but most of it all because of the message and the feelings it gave me while I was watching it and even still gives me. People are watching movies for the same reason they listen to music or look at paintings, they wanna feel. We all have to come along with people of different colors, nationalities and whatever. The best and most peaceful way to do that, like it's mentioned in the movie, is to listen to our hearts, which for me is the message that the director and screenplay-writer wanted to bring along. I hope I got the message, on any account it made me cry several times which is a thing not many movies have achieved yet. For me as a German who dealt a lot with the history of his own country and also a little with the history of the Ku-Klux-Clan, it was good to see that those people are shown as just what they are: A bunch of mind-sick, dumb and dangerous Nazis. The whole situation in the movie in my opinion stands at the appropriate rate to reality of that time in the south of the United States,what makes it very authentic and traceable. The reason I call it a timeless story although it's certainly set in a special time is that everyone is almost forced to think, at least subconsciously, about the way he or she is dealing with those problems of difference that are always gonna exist. I highly recommend this movie but I will not say enjoy or have fun 'cause you won't find these things in "A time to kill". I also love the title 'cause when you think about it, everyone can become a murderer in the right circumstances. But what you're gonna find is a captivating story, acting on its highest level and strong emotions.
  • csauer9 August 2006
    Who in this movie does'nt play there part perfectly? The judge looks like a judge, a hanging judge at that. The sheriff is not a sugar coated law man, rather a tough Mississippi fair law man who knows what to do realistically. All the actors are cast in the only part they could be. THEN when the intensity of the movie gets to the boiling point who comes in to give us a break? You ALL know who. There she is to give us a break, and a laugh as Sandra swoops in on us. She is by far and away the most delightful actress I have ever seen. Even after she is beaten up and in a hospital bed she gives us a couple of chuckles. She has a delivery second to none. Every one, every one plays their role perfectly. Great movie, easy to follow, great story line, great all the way around. Do I like it? Yea about fifty times viewed like it.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    This is the worst kind of film.

    The plot is ludicrous, the characters are unrealistic stereotypes who never look like they believe it themselves. Are white people such monsters that they will continue to call two white child rapists in their 20s "good boys" and need to be persuaded that this might be grounds for provocation? Are black people universally inspiring? Do the Ku Klux Klan really stand outside court rooms shooting at lawyers with nobody intervening? Do judges really think that a fair trial can be conducted when the jury can hear a mob outside shouting "Kill him"? Do black people really stand shoulder to shoulder with the Klan waiting to hear the verdict? Do wives really take several months to realise that their husband might be defending a man from unfair hanging because he knew might have done the same thing? Do juries really acquit people of murder because they feel sorry for them? Do lawyers really use a defense of sanity in order to persuade people that their client was temporarily insane?

    Worst of all, any high-minded principles of this film were lost to the completely exploitative and gratuitous use of sexual crime to titillate the audience. Was the subject of rape, let alone child gang rape, really in competent hands here? Is it really a subject that belongs in Hollywood hands? And if so, why the completely gratuitous kidnap and stripping of Sandra Bullock? And the completely pointless statutory rape charge against one of the witnesses? Seems like the director didn't feel THAT strongly about sex crime after all.

    This was taking the excellent plot of To Kill a Mockingbird and making a crass, shallow, tasteless money-spinner from it. Shame on them.
  • John Grisham and Joel Schumacher are two men who've never much cared whether the stories they tell make sense, and it shows.

    We're supposed to believe that a small Mississippi town is BOTH progressive and liberal enough to elect a black sheriff AND so racist that a black crime victim can never get justice. ANybody else see a contradiction here?

    Samuel L. Jackson's character claims the right to kill the men who attacked his daughter, because he insists black people can't get justice from a white jury. But later, a white jury acquits him... which proves he was WRONG, which means his action was NOT justified!

    Then there's the Kevin Spacey character, who makes no sense at all. Even in the Deep South, there is NO WAY that prosecuting a man for avenging the rape of his daughter could be a good career move. An ambitious politician would steer clear of such a case. He'd NEVER embrace it as a stepping stone to higher office.

    Grisham and Schumacher don't seem to grasp that this isn't 1890 any more.
  • The problem I have with this movie is not that a black father loses his cool and shoots two white men who raped his daughter. What bothers me is the idea that "racism" -- a complex reality involving a host of different cultural, economic, and political problems -- can be summed up as "mean rednecks who drive pickup trucks attacking black children at random." This kind of oversimplification doesn't really solve anyone's problems, black or white. But liberal Hollywood has been employing this approach ever since TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD. And it's not hard to see why. Because if racism is simply a matter of the poorest, most ignorant whites committing open acts of violence, then the rich whites who run the film industry, and the legal profession, and the media, are inherently on the right side of the issue. And every other issue, too.

    In the end, it's not really about racial justice, it's about class prejudice and liberal hypocrisy. And this is not just a southern problem.

    For example, some years ago, there was a deplorable racial murder in Bensonhurst, an Italian section of Brooklyn. And famed "liberal" columnist Anna Quindlen (who is half Italian) wrote a very frosty column, essentially dismissing the entire neighborhood (the entire class) as ignorant Goombahs who should all be in jail. Evidently when you go to college and move to Manhattan you become one of the good guys. And it doesn't matter whether you send your kids to exclusive private schools and associate only with affluent whites -- at least you don't hunt black children from pickup trucks or club people with baseball bats. Because that's racism, and racism is bad.

    But class privilege, self-congratulation and hypocrisy are okay.
  • 10-year-old Mississippi girl Tonya Hailey is viciously raped by rednecks James Louis Willard and Billy Ray Cobb. They are taken into custody by Sheriff Ozzie Walls (Charles S. Dutton), but the girl's father Carl Lee Hailey (Samuel L. Jackson) takes matters into his own hands killing both men and wounding a police officer. Jake Tyler Brigance (Matthew McConaughey) knows Carl and takes on his defense. Kevin Spacey plays D.A. Rufus Buckley, and Donald Sutherland is Jake's drunken partner Lucien Wilbanks. Freddie Lee Cobb (Kiefer Sutherland) leads a local rebirth of the KKK. Law student Ellen Roark (Sandra Bullock) offers to help Jake.

    It's a John Grisham novel directed by Joel Schumacher. It's a lot of drama with very little tension. None of these characters especially Carl is worth our sympathies. Also there are a lot of ridiculous things like Carl visiting the injured cop in the hospital. It would never happen like that. It would help out Carl's character if the cop didn't get in the line of fire. It would clean up the morality mess and line up the ethical question better. It would also help to have Carl exhibit some mental problems so the insanity defense has some purchase.

    The story is hitting all the big stereotypes, and plays every race card. It's overwrought when it's unnecessary. There is no cross unburnt. There is no hood unworn. The NAACP is corrupt. And with so many big Hollywood actors, a lot of this feels fake. This is not a subtle movie. Then there is the ending. I cannot abide by it no matter how it's argued. But even if I agree, the closing argument by Jake was just hitting all the wrong notes.
  • The premise of 'A Time to Kill' is relatively simple: little black girl is raped by big white men, bigger black father (played by designated scary black man Samuel L. Jackson) is vexed by said rape and in retaliation kills the offending white males (and injures a white officer of the peace in the process), and the media (mostly white), district attorney (white), and Ku Klux Klan (white, surprisingly) descend upon him like vultures. Jack Brigance, a hotshot lawyer who doesn't play by the rules (though would rather get Sandra Bullock to break them for him), takes black father's case.

    Of course, with a simple premise comes a need for substantial queries: can a single man or a state better serve justice, and should a judiciary be designed around idealistic or pragmatic sentiments? The problem is, though, that the film tries to answers these questions. From 'A Time to Kill's opening moments the audience is made painfully aware of the director's adamancy that we invest our sympathies with Jackson's character. The quick-cutting and distorted angles of the film's introductory rape sequence offer vicarious punishment for the viewer that makes us not only feel nothing but emphatic passion for the raped child, but also unconditional hatred towards her attackers (who are by no means the most difficult people to despise). This means that, regardless of the odd Horatian jab at insincere affirmative action advocates, Joel Schumacher clearly wants us to feel that the cosmically correct outcome of this trial is for the father of the victim to be found innocent of charges that were very rightly made. In other words, this film might as well be called 'Vigilante Justice: The Wave of the Future'.

    The filmmakers go even further by forcing the audience to be diametrically opposed to and even repelled by all parties featured in the film who are opposed to Schumacher's desired conclusion, even if they are parties of a somewhat honourable disposition (such as the son of the policeman who gets shot). By doing this, 'A Time to Kill' supports fascist ideals of vigilante justice, thus is conservative propaganda. Yet it tries to cover this up by throwing the race card on the proverbial table (a card which essentially permits persecuted minority groups to be placed above the law). This means that 'A Time to Kill' combines two of the worst attributes of both sides of the American political spectrum and in the process becomes a frightening hybrid of oligarchic ideologies and victim mentalities that nobody in their right mind would want to take credit.

    Despite all this, 'A Time to Kill' is strangely dynamic drama. Maybe it's the thrill of watching Armageddon fall upon a small and decidedly fragile town, with white supremacists having Molotov cocktails thrown at them and courtrooms playing host to drunkards and snide doctors; or maybe it's because Schumacher actually does a pretty good job of directing some utterly wonderful supporting actors (Donald Sutherland, Kevin Spacey, Kurtwood Smith, Oliver Platt) and some rather mediocre main ones (Matthew McConaughey, Sandra Bullock).

    At any rate, this piece of populist exploitation works like an inexplicable charm. Unlike Grisham's novel, the film hooks you from the get-go and keeps you practically on the edge of your set until the beautifully delivered closing statement by McConaughey (his talent did not live through the 90's, but this scene is at least a marvelous requiem to it), after which things starting getting a bit anti-climatic.

    Ultimately, 'A Time to Kill' is a very solid film that does not deserve to be condemned purely on the basis of its fallacious morals. Not as intelligent or well made as 'The Pelican Brief', but certainly just as thrilling.
  • I have not read "A Time to Kill" by John Grisham, and perhaps that would have helped understand the film better. But perhaps not. I hear this is the most faithful Grisham adaption yet, and if that is true, I can see why so many publishers turned down the novel when Grisham introduced it as his first work.

    "A Time to Kill" is one of those films that is seriously confused and wants to do too many things at once. It wants to be a suspenseful crowd-pleasing thriller and, at the same time, a film dedicated to exploring certain social and moral questions. Let's face it, those two types of films do not go together in Hollywood, which is why "Dead Man Walking" had to be made independently.

    The story involves a young lawyer named Jake (Matthew McConaughy) out to defend a black man named Carl (Samuel L. Jackson) from murdering two hillbillies that brutally raped his young daughter. The day before the rapists' trial, Carl hid in a closet in the courthouse and when the rapists were brought through the building, he charged out and shot both of them dead. To help out with the defense, Jack accepts the help of a former law student (Sandra Bullock), who proves that her role in this film was totally unnecessary, and put in the film only for marketing purposes.

    Meanwhile, one of the rapist's kid brother (Kiefer Sutherland) was angered that a black man killed his brother and decided to act out a revenge. All of this leads to a shooting in front of the courthouse, a kidnapping, a brutal beating, and race riot. I'll admit that all of this held my attention greatly throughout the film, in addition to the courtroom scenes. What I later objected to was the film's handling of ethical questions and its use of formulas in the plot.

    The main question that the film constantly asks, over and over again, is whether a black man gets a fair trial from a white jury. Sure they can, but that doesn't mean that the man has to be acquitted in order for the trial to be fair. This film, however, doesn't seem to think so. Besides that, there several gaping holes in the plot used for conveniences. For example, there is an unknown character called Mickey Mouse, who is a member of the Klan, and, for reasons unknown, is helping the members of the defense team escape from serious dangers of the other members of the Klan. After Bullock is kidnapped by Sutherland and company, and left for dead in the wilderness, this unknown person comes and saves her---and we NEVER find out who he is and why he is helping out the people he should be terrorizing.

    And speaking of the Sutherland character's reign of terror, it's amazing how witless the police and the Bullock character are in stopping him throughout the film. There's a scene when Sutherland becomes a sniper from a building across the street from the courthouse and tries to shoot Jake as he comes out, shooting one of the guards instead. Now you'd think since there are dozens of police around, it would be easy to surround and capture the sniper. No such luck. From what we could see, no one seemed to even care that a sniper was still on the loose. Even after Bullock, was rescued by Mickey Mouse, she never, ever mentioned who her kidnapper was, nor was it even questioned. Why was this? Simple. The Sutherland character was needed throughout the film to add continual suspense, although logically, he should have been out of the picture.

    Besides Bullock's character, there another thankless character. He is Jake's assistant played by Oliver Platt. There seems to be one reason for his character to be in the movie--to supply a number of one-liners for the audience. In my opinion, one-liners show a major weakness in "serious" films when used. It demonstrates that the filmmakers are not confident that the story and dialogue alone are enough to keep the audience's attention, and so use them to make the audience laugh to reassure everyone that they are watching an entertaining film.

    But enough of the film's many minor problems. What about the film's message here? It is clear that Carl is indeed guilty of murder. We saw how he planned for hours to murder the men who raped his daughter. The lawyers argue that it was temporary insanity, etc that caused him to kill. In desperation, Jake asks the jury to close their eyes as he recounts the rape in detail as part of his closing arguement. After describing everything that took place, he adds on one final line..."The girl is white". We then see members of the jury with tears in their eyes.

    In the very next scene, a girl comes out yelling "He's free! He's free!". Wait a minute! Do juries base their verdicts on their emotions or on the facts? Most of all, why weren't there any scenes that showed the jury deliberating and what they were really thinking after their emotions worn off. I'll tell you why. They couldn't show the delibertion because NO JURY could acquit a man of such a crime, no matter how much the defense's closing arguements touched their hearts. What is the message? That someone is justified in killing if it is a form of revenge for a previous crime done to them?

    This film should have had the courage to say that murder is NOT OK in this situation, because in reality, there would not be an acquittal. But since dollars were at stake, the filmmakers were more concerned about sparing the audiences' feelings than they were about presenting a responsible message. If people start killing as a form of revenge, the makers of this film should be held responsible. What a socially irresponsible film this is!
  • This is one of the worst films I have ever seen! It is basically a propaganda for blood vengeance and also, in the dialogs, for death penalty. Maybe it is a cultural reason that I, as a European, am a little sensitive about those topics and felt totally disgusted. But the film also has not much to tell beyond these central points. With a big portion of emotionalism it merely tries to cover its plot's weakness and, even more, to capture its viewers with its opinion. The obvious intention is to make the audience heartily agreeing with the offered judgment. This is dangerous, it is the way propaganda works. Could the action be seen as a kind of justified manslaughter? No! It was in the European Middle Ages when vengeance as an accepted form of criminal punishment was abolished. And this should not be changed! I'd like to advise everyone to watch this film again and, as an experiment, to replace the raped daughter with a raped 70-year-old mother. I doubt that shooting the rapist will be equally approved. Anyway, the film has to get at least 1 out of 10, maybe for the musical score.
  • Apparently it's okay for black people to shoot whites if they are angry. That's the message of this movie, plain and simple. It's a horrible endorsement of violence and a complete disregard for for the rights of individuals. The two men who were shot had not even been to trial yet. And why did Samuel L. Jackson's character go off half cocked? Because he visits Matthew McConaughey's character who tells him the men will get off. All of this before the trial even happens!!! I can tell you that I live in the south and we have respect for law and justice in this part of the country. John Grisham is indulging in the worst perceptions of the south and and bigotry against southern people.
  • This is not "To Kill A Mocking Bird " or "In the heat Of the Night, two films that forcefully and righteously took on racism in the The South before the Civil Rights movement retired Jim Crowe. This "movie"(I cannot call it a "film "as it would give it the respect it does not earn.) No doubt "A Time To Kill" does justice to the Grisham book in the sense it portrays the fictional novel correctly. However the movie and the book is laughable with it's stereotypically characters, stretched plot line and paper thin believability. . Starting with the story line. Set in apparently modern day rural Mississippi, A black ten year old girl's brutally attacked, raped and left for dead by a pair of viscously depraved racists (needlessly to say white) The father, fearing his daughter's assailants would not get justice from the white jury, guns down the rapists before their trial.

    The main characters.are so cartoonishly evil or saintly good one would expect they would have horns and halos on their heads. The racists rapists are rednecks who drive pickup trucks and are as stupid morons only Hollywood could dream up (Openly bragging about their deeds in a county with a black sheriff?) The father of the victim is desperately poor but stands proudly with the dignity of the righteous. One has to support him despite his murdering of two unarmed, shackled men and the careless maiming of an innocent deputy sheriff . Anything less could be viewed as support for the most vilest of human scum.

    The loopholes in are overwhelming. The father, Carl Lee Hailey (Samuel L. Jackson) believes his daughter's rapists will be acquitted by a white jury, the same white people who elected a black man for sheriff(a position of power in a rural county) And are viewers expected to believe a prosecutor with an eye for higher office, bring charge of first degree murder to a father of a brutally raged child? Only people who have biased view of Southerners, have never set foot in any state south of the Mason Dixon line or is Joel Schumacher, the director who ruined the Batman movie franchise with the insipidly bad "Batman & Robin" would find this plausible. Even the at the height (or should that be the depths) of the days of Segegation the most ardent Segregationist wouldn't condone the rape of an ten year old child. But this is fiction, terribly bad fiction and the movie's plot demands villains and the political atmosphere for them to thrive, no matter how ridiculous.

    Another small but incredulous point is a how does a dirt poor family in the Mississippi Delta region afford an M-16(Ar-14?) but not an lawyer? An very expensive weapon that is not likely to be hanging from the walls of a poor black family. A real Carl Lee Hailey would more likely have an old family shotgun. Could the director be making a point about gun control at the expense of character creditability. In THIS movie? You betcha.

    Every good story has a lesson to be learned. With "To Kill A Mocking Bird " the point is clear. For true justice to be obtained, the law must be color blind. What is the message the audience of "A Time To Kill" are left to learn? That taking the law into one's hands is good, only if one's prejudices and the racial cause is politically correct? One need only to switch the color of the skin of the protagonists and see what "justice" is according to them.

    The makers of this piece of work have made the case for racial vigilantism, whether they intended to or not.
  • zogz5424 February 2007
    This is a truly repellent film, and one that is all too representative of the deeply pernicious influence that John Grisham has wielded over cultural life in America. It attempts to paper over its rabidly right-wing approach to justice with the usual flabby soft-liberal posturings over race. Ironically, however, its racial attitudes are almost as objectionable as its unabashed endorsement of vigilante violence; here, patronising smugness is taken to new lows. This film is in the not-so-proud Hollywood tradition of stories about heroic white men riding to the rescue of noble but ineffectual black men, and seldom has this tradition been affirmed as explicitly as it is here. In the form of representatives of the N.A.A.C.P., black people do indeed offer their support to Jackson's character, but this is rejected in favour of Matthew McConaughey's bland young lawyer. In place of the political clout and legal expertise the N.A.A.C.P. are able to supply, Carl Lee Hailey (Jackson) instead sticks to the inexperienced idealism of the crusading Caucasian protagonist. Know your place, black folks! Don't you know there's a dashing, photogenic white hero in the building? Move along now, and leave the rescuing to this poor man's Atticus Finch. Good white people do battle with bad white people, and the only appropriate place for black people in all of this is at the sidelines, looking stoical and dignified.

    Another point to make against this odious trash is that the assertion of the individual's right to seek violent retribution is not so different from the basic assumptions of the Ku Klux Klan, the villains of the piece. But such subtleties are hardly the type of stuff that the likes of Grisham and Schumacher can be expected to trifle with. It beggars belief how the former can have had the audacity to accuse Oliver Stone of encouraging violence when that is precisely what this dangerous rubbish does. Films like 'A Time to Kill', which champion personal vengeance, no matter how bloody, contribute to the kind of political climate in which leading politicians can express sympathy with crazed loons who murder judges. Apart from its warped values, the film is shoddily written, lamely paced and atrociously acted, with one of the worst collections of hammy 'Southern' accents ever assembled. The cinematography is nice.
  • ... because the "message" of this movie (and it seems to be made as a message movie) STINKS!!! If you kill somebody (no matter if it is human scumbag or not), you should be punished.

    But that's John Grisham. Pretends to be liberal while being rotten to the core. Too sad that truly great actors wasted their talent for that piece of garbage.
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