Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBB.5. USA, 1979. Columbia Pictures Corporation. Screenplay by Valerie Curtin, Barry Levinson. Cinematography by Victor J. Kemper. Produced by Norman Jewison, Patrick J. Palmer. Music by Dave Grusin. Production Design by Richard Macdonald. Costume Design by Ruth Myers. Film Editing by John F. Burnett. Academy Awards 1979. Golden Globe Awards 1979.
Explosive law film that mixes a healthy blend of comedy in with the serious subject of criminal justice. Al Pacino brilliantly underplays the part of a young, idealistic lawyer who can’t stand the corruption going on around him: two of his innocent clients have been jailed, while the despicable big-shot judge (John Forsythe) whom he’s defending on a rape charge will definitely go free even though it’s quite obvious he’s guilty. Christine Lahti makes a fantastic screen debut as the ethics committee lawyer who provides a challenge for our hero by not only arguing incessantly with him on matters of law, but also making him fall helplessly in love with her. Norman Jewison’s direction is very even, and Barry Levinson and Valerie Curtin’s screenplay makes sure there’s an entertaining gem worth remembering in every scene. The fact that Pacino decides that Forsythe is guilty based on pictures he finds of the judge in very lewd sexual situations is absolutely ridiculous, but for the most part it’s a credible and fascinating film, not to mention pretty hip (except maybe for Dave Grusin’s now dated musical score).