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  • mermatt19 November 2000
    The idea of taking an excellent cast and fitting them into images of the real trial of O.J. Simpson is interesting. However, I think people are tired of the story. After all, the whole thing played out like a soap opera on TV for seemingly forever.

    But the look at how things were behind the real TV scenes is intriguing, and depicting OJ as megalomaniac who has lost his grip on reality explains a great deal about the case.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    WARNING- SPOILERS MAY BE INSIDE THIS REVIEW

    AMERICAN TRAGEDY is a fascinating look at the OJ Simpson trial, from the point of view of his legal defence team. The four main characters are Johnnie Cochran (Ving Rhames), Robert Shapiro (Ron Silver), Barry Scheck (Bruno Kirby) and F. Lee Bailey (Christopher Plummer). These are some of the best legal minds in the world- and when they get together they act like bickering children. The only one who comes out the mini-series looking good is Scheck- he stirs clear of the conflict, probably because he knows his place is secure. He's the only one who understands the DNA evidence, so they can't fire him. The rest look like petty people. Cochran is a big-headed blow-hard who tries to act like he's just another brother. Shapiro is a petty man who is hurt when everyone seems to think Cochran should be the lead lawyer- after all it was his case first, even if he had never tried a capital case before and his strong suit was making pleas. Bailey comes across as a feeble-minded old man- who is next to incompetent when it comes to trial work. The DA's office is not a major characters- yet they still come off as not that bright. A key piece of evidence is excluded because they simply did not turn it over to the defence. The actor playing Simpson himself is never seen. We just see the back of his head, or hear his voice on the speaker phone. As the trial progresses he gets more and more angry, until he explodes at Cochran before closing statements. The acting is flawless. Christopher Plummer embodies Bailey and with the aid of make-up looks much fatter then he really is. Ving Rhames deserves another Golden Globe for Actor in a TV movie, hopefully this time he'll keep it. This film is a fascinating look at the trial of the century- and shows us all why this happened in the first place.
  • I don't know who approved this script but it sucked! Big Time! All the characters were written as cardboard cutouts. Simpson himself could possibly be the worst written character I have ever seen. He is written as an almost mentally deficient child! The man did graduate from university and managed to parlay his speaking abilities into broadcasting. Mass murderer...maybe, idiot, he is not. Acting all around was great. Rhames, Silver, Plummer, Kirby, all great. That's the only factor that kept me watching the first half.
  • Despite of the sad and tragic subject matter, this movie is actually an enjoyable experience as it often focuses on the absurd elements of this true story. It is about Court Life and much less about the notorious O. J. Simpson case. It resembles more Larry Gelbard's brilliant TV movie script about corporate greed than classical court room dramas like To Kill a Mockingbird.

    What is the American Tragedy? What does this (certainly not very objective) movie showcase? After watching it I have to conclude that the tragedy is the court system that seems unable to cope with high class lawyers and the media hype. The results are, as this movie shows, truly devastating. You have a police force that is distrusted and ridiculed as a whole, you have forensic experts who will probably never again touch a sample without consulting a lawyer first and - worst of all - you have judges „presiding" over proceedings who come through as impotent bystanders. And in the end you have jurors who decide on impulse, on a gut feeling, about guilt and innocence. This renders the whole judicial system useless.

    It would be easiest to blame it all on those rich, slick lawyers. As highly paid court jesters and authors of books about this case they virtually feed on dead bodies. I think one of the strong points of this movie consists in showing clearly that the defense team - despite all the highlighted human failings there may be - acted within the boundaries conceded by the system and that the blame has to be put on that system. If you have large parts of the population which do not trust the police as an institution, then something must have been wrong for a long time.

    The acting is great all around, I particularly liked the relationship between Johnnie Cochran and his sidekick Carl (those two actors should team up for other projects). The most memorable scenes are the jury selection process in which members of the jury are pushed around like pawns on a chess board and Johnnie Cochran's speech after the prosecution asked for a ban on the „n word" in the court room. It is a marvelous example of Orwellian doublespeak if anything. In the end he apologizes to the whole nation ... for what? Hey, who cares, all that counts is that an apology has become necessary.
  • Sure I know the characters in this docudrama seem like cardboard cutoff, but you have to admit anything that pertains to "The Simpson Trial" must be respected and looked upon as a national icon. Plus a film with Ving Rhames is a must see. Rhames has had past success playing many other heavies besides Johnnie Cochran, remember the Golden Globe he won in 1998 for his performance as legendary boxing promoter Don King in the HBO original movie Don King: Only in America. Ving Rhames said it best about Don King and Johnnie Cochran "They try to say something". And believe me people like myself listen because King and Cochran stand for what they believe in and speak a free mind on issues of importance. "American Tragedy" does a great job showing the feud of the defense team members mostly between Shapiro and Cochran and with F. Lee Bailey helping to replace Shapiro as lead counsel. It showed in perfect detail how the defense team played the race card and cast doubt on the truthfulness of the blood evidence. This movie even showed what a great coach O.J. Simpson was by giving his lawyers advice on strategy! Then after the acquittal you see the rocky relationships of "The Dream Team" end. You will love the performance of Ving Rhames as Cochran and Plummer does a nice job as F. Lee Bailey while Silver and Bruno Kirby are only halfway acceptable as Shapiro and Scheck. "American Tragedy" is a fascinating look at a trial that will always remain fresh in our minds. Remember everyone will enjoy a media obsession.
  • Trimark's 'American Tragedy' tracks Marcia Clark's book, 'Without A Doubt' so well I wondered if she hadn't cooperated in the screenplay. It bothered me that this movie is not listed in Maltin's Movie Guide and I wondered why, but then I see here that it's a TV production, and Maltin does not list those. Much of course was left out, most of which would have been even more incriminating. The movie is very well done, quite restrained and objective in my view. It is 'without a doubt' and at the very least a damning testimony to the flaws in our jury system. The one strong point in the book that the movie glossed over or even gave a wrong impression about was Judge Ito's marked favoritism toward the defensive team of lawyers throughout the trial. All in all, a very interesting and important film.
  • Norman Mailer's brilliant teleplay deserves to stand alongside the finest work that he has ever done. Adapted from Lawrence (`Perfect Murder, Perfect Town') Schiller's book in collaboration with newcomer James Willwerth, it almost dispels the stigmas that the media conviction imposed on the OJ trial from the beginning.

    There are some disappointments from the cast - possibly because expectations were so high based on Ving Rhames' dazzling embodiment of Don King, and the backgrounds of some other stellar personages present here.

    Most deficient is Bruno Kirby as Barry Scheck; wrong for the part physically and inflectionally.

    But Ron Silver is as on target as Robert Shapiro as he was as Dershowitz in `Reversal of Fortune.' You can't say more than that, can you? Mailer explores at great length the facets of Shapiro's courage and genius contributing to the defense, and only fleetingly touches upon the jerk he became later on. Christopher Plummer does not look like F. Lee Bailey, and the characterization never attains the stature of its depictee. Bailey was and is one of the towering figures of the 20th century, the Disraeli and Dreyfuss and Clarence Darrow of modern times.

    The two female leads are magnificent. The gifted and beautiful Sandra Prosper is Shawn Chapman, a fledgling figure inside the team - a dips**t girl spouting caucasiphobic cliches who grows into an insightful woman adept at absorbing and reflecting and expanding upon the greatness that surrounds her. And Diana LaMar is 100% at recreating the imperious and acerbic Marcia Clark.

    Rhames' delivery of Cochran's soaring summation equals the oration of Chaplin at the end of `Great Dictator.'

    The verdict of `Not Guilty!' - an anthem that rings out across the world declaring to the power-driven starched and cleanshaven deranged sadists who believe that people should be herded into groups and burned: `Rightly or wrongly, you will not always have your way!'