Courtroom dramas are a genre of movie I have to be in the right mood for, as they, like court cases themselves tend to drag excessively. This movie does suffer from that fate, but it is redeemed by strong performances from many fine lead actors.
The story involves a black man named Carl Lee Hailey in the south played by Samuel L mother f’n Jackson who kills the men who raped his daughter and left her to die.
Now, his life is on the line and rests in the hands of a young socially minded lawyer named Jake played by Matthew McConaughey. Throughout the way there are many long courtroom speeches, and scenes of McConaughey in distress from the horde of local racists that descend upon him for having the gall to take this case.
The most famous line of the movie and the powerful belongs to Jackson in a scene when he is testifying and exclaims, in response to a question about the dead rapists “YES, THEY DESERVED TO DIE AND I HOPE THEY BURN IN HELL!”… This is one of the most iconic and best delivered lines of his career.
There’s been a lot made of the so called McConaissance of the past half decade or so where the actor has recovered from his long string of brainless romantic comedies and has performed some of the finest work of any modern actor. A period that gets lost here is this early period of his career with movies like this and “Dazed and Confused” where he was also making quality films.
He’s always been a damn good actor, but like anyone, he needs something to work with.
Aside from those two there’s also fine work put in by Kevin Spacey as the “bad guy” prosecuting attorney, Sandra Bullock as the lead assistant, and Kiefer Sutherland plays a creepy racist guy.
A Time to Kill gets a three out of five: SATISFYING.