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Just Cause

movie reviewvideo review out of 4 Movie Review: Just Cause

Starring: Sean Connery, Laurence Fishburne
Director: Arne Glimcher
Rated: R
RunTime: 100 Minutes
Release Date: February 1995
Genres: Drama, Mystery, Suspense

*Also starring: Kate Capshaw, Blair Underwood, Ed Harris, Ruby Dee, Christopher Murray, Scarlett Johansson, Daniel J. Travanti, Ned Beatty

Review by Dragan Antulov
1 star out of 4

Death penalty is one of those socio-political issues that separate USA and Europe more widely than Atlantic Ocean, soccer and suffering Iraqi children ever could. On the other hand, you couldn't make that conclusion based on various opinion polls that find Europeans and Americans more or less equally supportive of this ultimate form of criminal justice. However, unlike Europe, American political establishment seem to be more aware of this than their European counterparts. Hollywood is also aware of death penalty being popular among movie-going audiences, so this issue is usually ignored in films of commercial nature. When it is not, Hollywood knows which side in this debate is more profitable at the box-office, usually at the expense of more experienced viewers, who are thus spared from any plot twists and surprises. JUST CAUSE, 1995 thriller directed by Arne Glimcher, is one of such examples.

The screenplay, written by Jeb Stuart and Peter Stone, is based on the novel by John Katzenbach. Protagonist is Paul Armstrong (played by Sean Connery), Harvard law professor whose legal expertise is matched only by his vocal opposition to death penalty. After 25 years he decides to put his practical skills to good use when he finds about Bobby Earl (played by Blair Underwood), young black man in Florida death row, sentenced to death for the rape and murder of little white girl. Earl claims that he didn't commit this crime and that his confession was the result of brutal police beating. Soon after arriving in Florida and experiencing small-town hostility and bias, Armstrong quickly realises that the young man is indeed innocent and that the real killer might be someone else.

JUST CAUSE could have dealt with death penalty or race relations in New South and still remained an interesting and exciting thriller. Unfortunately, scriptwriters Frost and Stone used those elements only as plot devices, desperately trying to compensate inadequacies of formulaic plot, burdened with a twist that would hardly be surprising to any experienced viewer. Even the presence of otherwise reliable actors can't save this mess of a movie ? Sean Connery is terribly unconvincing in the role of mild-mannered Harvard scholar who turns into action superhero at the end, while Ed Harris overacts while unsuccessfully trying to make his psychopathic character meaner than Hopkins' in THE SILENCE OF THE LAMBS. On the other hand, Laurence Fishburne is at least interesting in his portrayal of black detective? the only non-cliched

character in JUST CAUSE. Unfortunately, his efforts weren't enough to save this film from well-deserved descent to cinema oblivion.

Copyright 2002 Dragan Antulov

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