18 February 2006 | basemnt-dwellr
Funny and Entertaining Courtroom Drama
I had the chance to see the movie at the Berlin Film Festival (actually I saw it twice), and I must say I really loved it. Even during the second screening I still thought it was interesting and funny.
Granted, I like both Sidney Lumet and Vin Diesel so I may be a bit biased, but the audience in the cinema seemed to like the movie too, because after both screenings they applauded.
The movie is a courtroom drama based on real events. The film depicts the longest Mafia trial in NYC history, and most of the dialog is taken from the original records of the trial. In 1987-88, some 20 members of the Lucchese crime family, each with his own lawyer, were indicted on some 76 charges ranging from criminal conspiracy to narcotics trafficking. The trial went on for 21 months.
The film focuses on Jack DiNorscio, one of the accused mobsters (played by Vin Diesel), who decides to defend himself. Even though he spent half his life in jail he doesn't know much about legal proceedings and mostly speaks what comes into his mind thus sometimes making fun of the whole trial.
Actually I was quite skeptical if Diesel could pull it off. C'mon, we all know him from some more or less mediocre action movies, so when I heard he was cast in a Sidney Lumet movie, I was quite surprised, and therefore even more eager to see him in this film. And yes, he is good. He gained some weight for this role and has hair (a wig), so he looks quite different from what you're used to.
During the Berlinale press conference Sidney Lumet said about Vin Diesel: "People make the great mistake with action heroes. They think that because generally the plots are simpler and their behavior is one-note that they can't act. But most of the time they can." And Diesel shows that he can act. With his charismatic persona he manages to carry the movie pretty easily. He has to talk a lot during the film which comes across very believable and authentic, and he shows a wide range of emotions from happiness to anger to mourning to being embarrassed to whatever.
The overall acting is really good, Linus Roache shines in his role as prosecutor Kierney. Contrary to his "Necromonger" role in "The Chronicles of Riddick" he gets a chance here to really show his talent. The other supporting cast is also really fantastic. I'd like to point out Peter Dinklage as lead defense attorney Ben Klandis, and Annabella Sciorra ("The Sopranos") who is really great in her single scene as DiNorscio's ex-wife. In this scene she goes through all the emotions from anger to frustration to jealousy. The other supporting cast consists of New York theater talent, as well as faces familiar to anyone who watches crime shows on the tube.
The film itself takes place almost entirely in the court room, and sometimes it drags a bit although it is not boring. It depends solely on talking, there is no action whatsoever in the movie. As DiNorscio joked around quite a bit during the trial, the film too is pretty funny in parts, and the audience in the cinema laughed quite a bit.
All in all I recommend this movie. But I have to warn the action fans: you might not like this film as it is a total change in comparison to the movies Vin Diesel has done until now.