Sunday, 14 September 2014


“The only thing worse than watching a bad movie is being in one.” - Elvis Presley

It’s Movie Monday today and I’m reviewing a film that our houseguests picked for viewing last night. This is because they are fans of Sean Connery and they were in the mood for a thriller. As nobody had seen this movie, we watched it. The film is called Just Cause (1995) and is a suspense/thriller. Except Sean Connery (who is undoubtedly an accomplished actor), there were fine performances by Laurence Fishburn, Kate Capshaw, Blair Underwood and Ed Harris. It is rather poorly directed by Arne Glimcher and is based on a novel by John Katzenbach.

I like watching suspenseful movies in small doses (subtle film noir more to my liking), and certainly some of these thriller movies can be anything but subtle. They are mostly designed to shock and horrify with lots of blood and gore (real or implicit) and scenes that set your nerves on edge. The success of films like “The Silence of the Lambs” and “Hannibal” attests to this.

The plot of the movie has as follows: In the mid-80s in Ochopee, Florida, an 11-year-old girl is kidnapped, raped, and murdered. Bobby-Earl Ferguson is arrested by officers Tanny Brown and J. T. Wilcox, who proceed to beat Bobby-Earl into confessing to the murder. Under duress, Bobby-Earl confesses, is convicted and is sentenced to death. Eight years later, as a last resort, Bobby-Earl gets his grandmother to go to Massachusetts, to hire Harvard law professor Paul Armstrong to help in demonstrating his innocence. At Harvard, Paul is attacking capital punishment in a campus debate, when the grandmother arrives and hands Bobby-Earl’s letter to him. Paul does not want to accept the case as he hasn’t practiced law for many years.

At home, he tells his wife of the encounter and after she reads the letter, she encourages Paul to take on the case. Paul, his wife, and his young daughter, head to Florida, where Paul meets Bobby-Earl in prison. Paul begins to believe that Bobby-Earl was railroaded and his suspicions of the man’s innocence are confirmed when he speaks to Blair Sullivan, a mad serial killer who is also on death row. Blair gives Paul some clues that could prove Bobby-Earl’s innocence (and his own guilt in the girl’s murder). Paul starts investigating and in the process discovers hidden truths that will finally place even his own family at risk, in the hands of a demented murderer.

You may recognise similarities to the classic “To Kill a Mockingbird”, but the superficial similarity is quickly put out of one’s mind when watching this movie. The film beginning may make the viewers think that they will watch a film of social and ethical intensity, but halfway during the movie, we are brought down to lower planes. The film is designed for mass consumption and is a gory thriller. Needless to say that things aren’t what they seem to be and the storyline involves a few plot twists. However, the twists were rather predictable and towards the end, one felt rather underwhelmed, despite the “action-packed” chase sequence, the trudge through the creepy Everglade swamps at night and the killer trying to despatch everyone in sight to the other world in all sorts of horrible ways. The cast saves the movie in many ways, but ultimately, it is the direction and the rather lame way in which some things are explained in the end that lets the movie down.

If you are a fan of Sean Connery or Laurence Fishburn (who manages to dominate all scenes he’s in!) then no doubt you’ll enjoy the movie. If you are a die-hard fan of mysteries, thrillers and whodunits, then maybe you will enjoy the movie. If you are a discriminating movie viewer who likes well-directed, subtle movies with elegant plots and deep psychological intenseness, then the film will disappoint. If you want to spend an evening watching some well-acted, moderately tense, conventionally directed thriller to while away 90 minutes or so, then watch this.

1 comment:

  1. Great review, I enjoyed this film, although it was not as you say subtle or overly elegant.