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MOVIE INFO

Director:
Norman Jewison
Cast:
Al Pacino, Jack Warden, John Forsythe, Lee Strasberg, Jeffrey Tambor, Christine Lahti, Sam Levene, Dominic Chianese, Craig T. Nelson
Writing Credits:
Valerie Curtin, Barry Levinson

Tagline:
This man needs the best lawyer in town. But the problem is ... he is the best lawyer in town.

Synopsis:
When a corrupt judge is charged with rape, Arthur Kirkland must defend him. Kirkland has had problems with the judge in the past, including one incident when the judge wrongly sentenced his client, Jeff McCullaugh, because of a technicality. Kirkland faces a moral and legal dilemma, especially difficult because the judge admits he is guilty.

Box Office:
Domestic Gross
$33.300 million.

MPAA:
Rated R

DVD DETAILS
Presentation:
Widescreen 1.85:1/16x9
Audio:
English Dolby Digital 5.1
Portuguese Monaural
Subtitles:
English
French
Spanish
Portuguese
Closed-captioned
Supplements Subtitles:
Spanish
Portuguese

Runtime: 119 min.
Price: $19.94
Release Date: 3/11/2008

Bonus:
• Audio Commentary with Director Norman Jewison
• “Norman Jewison: The Testimony of the Director” Featurette
• “Barry Levinson: Cross-examining the Screenwriter” Featurette
• Four Deleted Scenes
Damages TV Pilot Episode
88 Minutes Sneak Peek
• Trailer
• Previews


PURCHASE @ AMAZON.COM

EQUIPMENT
Panasonic 50" TH-50PZ77U 1080p Plasma Monitor; Harman/Kardon DPR 2005 7.1 Channel Receiver; Toshiba A-30 HD-DVD/1080p Upconverting DVD Player using HDMI outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Kenwood 1050SW 150-watt Subwoofer.

RELATED REVIEWS


... And Justice For All: Special Edition (1979)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (February 25, 2008)

Al Pacino has inspired a share of catchphrases over the years, and he scored one with 1979’s …And Justice For All. I don’t know where “you’re out of order!” ranks with others like “hoo-ah!” and “just when I thought I was out…”, but it remains a memorable line.

Does Justice deserve continued attention as anything other than the launching ground of a catchphrase? On that topic, I’m not so sure. Pacino stars as Arthur Kirkland, a hotheaded, idealistic Baltimore lawyer. He ends up in the clink when he butts heads with stern, harsh Judge Henry Fleming (John Forsythe).

Despite the animosity between the two, they join forces when Fleming gets arrested for the alleged rape and assault of a woman (Teri Wootten). Fleming maintains his innocence, but Arthur discovers that the truth tells him something else. The movie follows that case as well as other legal and personal relationships pursued by Kirkland.

My synopsis probably makes Justice sound more straightforward than it is. While the Fleming thread is an important one, it spends a lot of time with many other characters and situations. It often feels rather episodic in nature and doesn’t flow together particularly well.

Indeed, Justice often feels more like some do-gooding TV series than a feature film. It comes chock full of eccentric characters and various scenarios, virtually none of which it pursues beyond the bare basics. Why does the film plop Arthur into an improbable romance? I guess because it feels like it’s supposed to have a love interest. There’s no more organic need for such a thread, and – like many of the flick’s elements – it comes across as gratuitous.

The romance does give Arthur an outlet to vent his ideas about the legal profession – not that the movie needs more of those scenes. In truth, Justice is less a film and more an extended piece of propaganda. Writer Barry Levinson specializes in obvious screeds about whatever subject attracts him, and Justice suffers from his typical lack of subtlety. Granted, the film’s anti-authoritarian, anti-status quo bent fits in its time period, but I think it could – and should – have handled its theses in less dogmatic ways. The flick beats us over the head with its ideas and leaves us no room to think for ourselves. There’s obvious right and wrong without any sense of gray.

All of this leads to a plodding, dated film without much merit I can find. The performers almost relentlessly overact – except for the surprising semi-exception of Pacino. Typically a scenery-chewer, he actually seems pretty reserved here, at least until the climactic courtroom scene. Indeed, he seems to channel Dustin Hoffman much of the time. It’s an unusual performance from Pacino, but not one that I think truly succeeds.

And very little about Justice prospers either. Dave Grusin’s score sounds like it came straight from a Seventies porn flick, and the movie’s pacing keeps us disinterested in its events. Those elements might be more easily forgiven if it weren’t for the film’s tendency to veer into the realm of self-parody. The picture provides a naïve, simplistic and one-dimensional take on a corrupt system.


The DVD Grades: Picture C+/ Audio C/ Bonus B

…And Justice for All appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.85:1 on this single-sided, double-layered DVD; the image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. Like the film itself, the transfer showed its age.

Many of the concerns stemmed from sharpness. At best, the movie exhibited decent to good definition, but more than a few shots came across as rather soft. These issues weren’t excessive, but they remained a little more persistent than I’d like. At least I noticed no problems with jagged edges or shimmering, and edge enhancement failed to occur. Source flaws were minimal, as only a few minor specks appeared, though grain tended to be pretty heavy at times.

Colors were consistently lackluster. Some of that came from the movie’s low-key visual design, but the general flatness of late Seventies film stock was a bigger culprit. The hues usually seemed bland and drab. Blacks were reasonably dense and dark, while shadows were acceptable. Some low-light shots appeared a little thick, but they weren’t too bad. Overall, the movie remained watchable and not much more.

The Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack of …And Justice for All seemed dated as well. Remixed from one-channel sources, the audio often remained essentially monaural, as most of the material focused on the center speaker. However, some sequences managed to open things up a bit. Music showed decent stereo delineation, and ambient information sporadically emerged from the sides and rears. For instance, the surrounds added a little environmental material. Nothing special occurred, but the track managed to create a minor sense of space.

Unfortunately, the quality of the material tended to be lackluster. Music fared best, as the score seemed reasonably lively and full. However, the other elements showed problems. Speech tended to be thin and tinny, with too much reverb and a bit of edginess. This occasionally affected intelligibility and meant the dialogue was mediocre at best. Effects also lacked much fidelity and came across as a little rough and flat. Despite the minor expansiveness of the 5.1 remix, the material was still pretty average for its era.

This special edition of Justice includes a smattering of extras. We begin with an audio commentary from director Norman Jewison. He provides a running, screen-specific discussion in which he chats about the film’s tone, sets and shooting in Baltimore, cast and crew notes, cinematography and score, research and influences, and a few other production tales.

Jewison offers a dry but informative commentary. His tone makes this one a bit of a chore at times, as he tends to drag, but I can’t fault the material discussed. The director gives us a pretty good look at the film’s creation and ensures that his chat merits our time.

Two interview featurettes follow. We get more from the filmmaker in the 12-minute and 13-second Norman Jewison: The Testimony of the Director. Jewison talks about working with the actors and aspects of the performances, the goals of the production, the movie’s balance between drama and comedy, his thoughts about justice in America, the flick’s reception and one deleted scene. If you’ve already listened to the commentary, you won’t find a lot of fresh information here. Jewison highlights a few minor new thoughts, but between the redundant remarks and too many movie clips, there’s not a lot to make “Testimony” useful.

Next comes the six-minute and 54-second Barry Levinson: Cross-examining the Screenwriter. In this, Levinson discusses the movie’s origins and its tone, the flick’s signature line, and thoughts about the legal system. While too brief to offer a lot of insights, Levinson manages to provide some interesting notes in this quick piece.

Four Deleted Scenes run a total of 10 minutes, 52 seconds. These include “Fleming’s Office” (2:49), “Jay Sharpens Pencil” (2:07), “Thanksgiving Basketball Game” (3:49) and “Jeff in Hospital” (2:24). “Office” is pointless, as it just reminds us what a jerk Fleming is; there’s enough of that in the final film. “Pencil” offers a look at Jay’s feelings toward his job; it’s inconsequential, especially since Jay is such a secondary character. “Game” just reminds us of Jay’s growing nuttiness, and there’s more than enough of that in the finished product. Finally, “Hospital” lets us see what happened to Arthur’s client. Do we need to see more of Jeff’s problems? Nope, so it was another logical omission.

An unusual extra comes from the Damages TV Pilot Episode. Other than its focus on the legal profession, the series maintains no connection to Justice. I assume it appears here as cheap promotion for the show’s DVD release. Nothing wrong with that, I suppose. For folks who haven’t seen the series, it’s a nice introduction.

For a glimpse at Pacino’s new flick, we find an 88 Minutes Sneak Peek. This 10-minute and 33-second piece offers comments from Pacino, producers Randall Emmet and Michael Flannigan, director Jon Avnet, actors Alicia Witt, William Forsythe, Amy Brenneman, Benjamin McKenzie, Deborah Kara Unger and Leelee Sobieski. This is standard promotional fare. It might interest you if you’d curious about the film, but don’t expect anything more than an extended trailer.

A few ads open the DVD. We get clips for Close Encounters of the Third Kind and Taxi Driver. These also appear in the Previews area along with promos for We Own the Night and Damages Season One. In addition, the package includes the theatrical trailer for Justice.

…And Justice for All wants to impress us with its Big Ideas. Instead, it bores the audience with its simplistic view of right and wrong, and it never coalesces into anything more than a naïve piece of propaganda. The DVD provides mediocre picture and audio along with a decent complement of supplements. This is an average release for a disappointing film.

Viewer Film Ratings: 3.125 Stars Number of Votes: 8
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