A Time to Kill
Release Year: 1996
Director: Joel Schumacher
Writers: Akiva Goldsman, John Grisham (novel A Time to Kill)
Starring: Matthew McConaughey, Sandra Bullock, Samuel L. Jackson, Kevin Spacey, Oliver Platt, Donald Sutherland, Charles S. Dutton, Chris Cooper, Ashley Judd, Brenda Fricker, Patrick McGoohan, Tonea Stewart, RaéVen Kelly
Rating: Nominated for 1 Golden Globe: Best Supporting Actor (Samuel L. Jackson).
A 10-year-old black girl is raped and left for dead by two racists in a small town in Mississippi. When the girl’s father Carl Lee Hailey (Samuel L. Jackson) shot the two culprits outside the court house, he asks the local, young, and idealistic lawyer Jake Brigance (Matthew McConaughey) to defend him. As the court case progresses a local group of racists start a revolt in the small town.
Although A Time to Kill was popular author of legal thrillers John Grisham’s début novel, this was the fourth Grisham adaptation to hit the screen. It followed on the heels of three popular adaptations: The Firm (1993), The Pelican Brief (1993), and The Client (1994) and became something of a breakthrough for some young actor called Matthew McConaughey. The film is a classic courtroom drama complete with side stories that sort of run into the sand, including the role of the KKK, the hint at legal injustice (notably information on the jurors being leaked to the prosecutor), etc. But McConaughey (Dallas Buyers Club, 2013) is very good in a role prior to the rom com portion of his career which for some reason earned him a bad reputation before he redeemed himself in the eyes of the critics. The story begins with the most appalling of crimes being committed by two white supremicists so nasty it makes their murder all the more understandable. The film asks its audience to root for a killer, and while vigilantes in the form of superheroes have always had the public’s back, it is not something we see everyday in a court of law. Combined with a career-minded slightly corrupt arrogant prick (played wonderfully by a snarky Kevin Spacey) prosecuting the case we’re all set for hoping Carl Lee is acquitted of something we all know he did. One might say there is a deeper justice beyond that of legally right and wrong at play here and it draws on many racially charged issues. The film manages to pull it through as much as one could hope for and that is i large parts due to a great and measured performance by Samuel L. Jackson (The Hateful Eight, 2015). Recommended for fans of court room dramas.
This is the second film in which Donald and Kiefer Sutherland appear together, the first one was Max Dugan Returns (1983).
Picture Copyright: Warner Bros.