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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

Reviewer Roundup
1.  Steve Rhodes review follows movie reviewmovie review
2.  Dragan Antulov read the review movie review

Review by Steve Rhodes
2 stars out of 4

Second time director Arne Glimcher (THE MAMBO KINGS) in 1995 decided to make a movie, JUST CAUSE, that looks like a combination of SILENCE OF THE LAMBS, DEAD MAN WALKING, and SHAFT. It is the least subtle movie I have seen in a long time. Populated with cliched characters and fast paced, it does entertain, but it demands a high tolerance for unbelievability.

As the show opens, Harvard professor Paul Armstrong (Sean Connery) is speaking against capital punishment in a debate. He seems to be winning until the other debater effectively raises the issue of the victims. After the debate a mother comes to Armstrong to ask him to get her son off of death row. Although he has not practiced law in 25 years, he agrees to investigate the case of a man accused of brutally raping and murdering a seven year old girl.

He finds that the defendant, Bobby Earl (Blair Underwood), is an ex-heroin dealer who cleaned up his act, became his High School class valedictorian, and then got a full academic scholarship to Cornell. There is that old suspension of disbelief problem.

Earl claims he gave his "confession" to the rape and murder only after a beating by the police and the playing of Russian roulette in his mouth by Officer Tanny Brown (Laurence Fishburne). Soon the police and the whole town seem about to tar and feather Armstrong for asking question about something that happened eight years ago and which they want to forget.

Complicating things more is a mysterious serial murder, Blair Sullivan (Ed Harris), who is also on death row and who may have some important evidence. In the Hannibal Lecter role, Harris give either a brilliant or an excessively ridiculous performance. You choose. One could make an argument either way.

In another implausible role, we have Kate Capshaw as Armstrong's wife Laurie. It seems that Earl was charged the year before for kidnapping a girl, and Laurie was the prosecutor. Of course these charges were trumped up Earl tells us. Capshaw is totally unconvincing, and this link between the two cases is a silly plot device.

So what is good about this absurd show? Several things actually. Sean Connery is a fascinating and compelling actor. Here he gives an excellent performance in a ridiculous movie. Fishburne (WHAT'S LOVE GOT TO DO WITH IT) manages to take a bunch of stupid lines and somehow make them worth hearing. His screen presence is amazing. Ultimately, I even liked Harris as the uncontrollable psychopath.

Editor William Anderson keeps the movie going at a lightning pace. The sounds of the swamp are menacing, and the gators are ready to chop off legs in a flash. The cinematography (Lajos Koltai) is best when shooting in the swamp. Eerie.

Although the script by Peter Stone and Jeb Stuart based on the novel by John Katzenbach has all of the delicacy of a meat cleaver and seems incapable of surprise, the show takes a sharp turn in the middle that is a real jolt. On the whole the film ends up no more than an unbelievable action picture with a few rewarding performances.

JUST CAUSE runs 1:42. It is rated R. There is no sex or nudity, but there is violence, a few gory scenes, and some bad language. It would be okay for most teenagers. I can not bring myself to recommend JUST CAUSE, but you might find it enjoyable albeit totally unbelievable. I give it **.

Copyright 1996 Steve Rhodes

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