Movie Review: A Time To Kill
I never read A Time To Kill by John Grisham because the book bored me. But I
wonder why it did bore me because the movie was engrossing and entertaining.
Maybe it is because Akiva Goldsman took out most of the boring parts. I usually
love Grisham, but this book was just too slow. However, another thing that made
the movie more entertaining is the actors.
The movie begins with the rape scene that you have probably heard about. If you
haven’t, it’s a quick-edited scene so it doesn’t show much, but still makes your
stomach churn. Jake Brigance (Matthew McConaughey) describes it graphically in
his summation. Anyway, what makes the scene so shocking is that it is a 10 year
old girl being raped. The two men are captured and while ascending a staircase
for their preliminary trial, the girl’s father, Carl Lee Hailey (Samuel L.
Jackson), runs out of a closet with a gun and shoots the two men and a cop. The
two men die and the cop has his leg amputated.
This sets off the main plot of the story. Hailey gets Brigance to defend him for
virtually nothing. During a courtroom scene, Eileen Roarke (Sandra Bullock, in a
surprisingly small role for having top billing) helps Brigance to get the trial
moved to another town. Unfortunately, the judge (Patrick McGoohan) decides
against moving the trial. Brigance needs to get a jury of young, married men
with children. What does he get? A jury of women and old men. So Brigance has
his work cut out for him, especially when he is up against the cruel and
cheating Rufus Buckley (Kevin Spacey).
The film moves along quickly, which I wasn’t expecting. The movie is 145 minutes
long, but it seems shorter than this. The book is over 500 pages, so Goldsman
had his work cut out for him. But he did a great job and made the movie more
entertaining than the book. As I said, the actors must have had something to do
with it as well. Matthew McConaughey is superb as Brigance. This is his first
movie and it will probably make him famous. His summation is one of the best
parts of the movie. He says it with great emotion that, not only can the jury
relate with, but so can the audience.
Samuel L. Jackson is always good and there is one particular scene where he
gives a small talk to Brigance. It is powerful, even if it is short. That’s how
good Jackson is. Sandra Bullock, in a supporting role, is charming as always.
Kevin Spacey, in his first role since The Usual Suspects, is okay but not as
brilliant as his Oscar winning performance from his last film. Keifer Sutherland
is just plain mean as the Ku Klux Klan member. And Donald Sutherland is good as
the drunken teacher of Brigance.
A Time To Kill is rated R. There is a fair amount of violence and language, and
the rape scene is pretty graphic for what they could show. But the performances
(especially by McConaughey) are outstanding and the story is quick-paced. This
is the worst of Grisham’s movies (The Firm, The Pelican Brief, and The Client)
but by far the most powerful and emotional.
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