I usually revere conspiracy movies, my favorite film of all time is "JFK", but they have to be comprehensive, Oliver Stone is proficient in this area, he knows how to set the mood and design the flashbacks, Clint Eastwood is learning. I cannot put the blame on anyone for this film because I cant find anything wrong with it, the potential was not there to begin with, but it is nice to see a suspense movie thats fundamentals are not action and car chases, they can satisfy with wise cracking investigators and confrontations that jolt nerves. These are the films high points, the conversations that occur during the investigation, everyone had good chemistry and the film itself was definitely satisfying. The plot is not too complex and the story is easy to follow, the only things that do not work are the sloppiness of some of the material, for instance the film began to focus at times on racism, only to let it go in the next scene and never bring it up again. This film is similar to 1996s "The Chamber", it is basically a run against the clock to save a killer on death row, that film was awful, what works here is that the time capsule is only a day instead of a few. So this film is fast and sharp, I cant call it too suspenseful because the only time you begin to hold your breath is in the last 20 minutes, but the investigation is slick and entertaining. It brings up topics that are smart and make you think, such as capital punishment and false accusations, the only thing that was missing was dedication. I did not feel that Eastwoods character felt any gratitude towards the person he was trying to save, it was more like he was trying to salvage himself out from the pits by proving this man innocent in a day, let me explain.
Convicted killer Frank Beachum (Isaiah Washington) is indited with murder in the first, but this case is different, people think that he walked into a convenient store and shot the clerk, whom was pregnant, because she owed him 96 dollars for car repairs, the media think he is a cold blooded killer. Two witnesses saw him drenched in blood and one with a gun in his hand, they testified that they are positive Beachum is the killer, with no one on his side he has to sit and wait his death. He has a wife and daughter, he has pride and honor, this is someone you could respect , he says he feels no remorse because he has not committed the crime, he cant say sorry over something he did not do. When the film fist starts we see ex barfly Steve Everett (Clint Eastwood) try to get a co worker in bed with him, to him morals and ethics are meaningless, he commits acts of sexual infidelity, indirectly hurts people, is selfish and just does not care about anyone. The co worker that he attempted to pick up at the bar leaves and goes home because she feels this is not right, and she has an exclusive with Beachum tomorrow, it turns out she gets into a car accident and dies. The paper that Everett works for needs someone to interview him, they are reluctant at first to choose Everett because he is known for playing Dick Tracy and digging into a case more then he should, he has as he says a nose that never veers him wrong. Alan Mann (James Woods) tells Everett to cover the story, Woods brings the comic relief into this movie and turns in another great performance since his last one in "Another Day In Paradise", the editor of the paper, Bob Findley ( Dennis Leary) is enraged with Everett for sleeping with his wife and has doses of hostile feelings towards him, they just want him to cover Beachums personality, not go and conduct an investigation.
Well he does and then the movie takes off into high voltage gear with Eastwood in an electrifying performance, he plays an urbane man who gets what he wants, suave and cunning this man does not need a note book to remember the facts, he could see right through you and totally make you prevaricate from your path to fall into his trap of truth. He reads eyes, expressions, tone of voice, this guys a pro at what he does. When he stops at the market, where the girl was murdered and find that it was impossible for one of the witnesses to have seen Beachem holding a gun because there was a rack of potato chips in the way, he begins to hunt for the truth at all cost.
Some scenes that do not work in this film are the conversations that occur with the warden, I could care less about their opinion and their insight to the case, those scenes were pointless and irrelevant. Isaiah Washington turns in a pretty emotional performance, it makes you think about what you would say to your loved ones if it were your last days on earth, he was pretty courageous and tough under these circumstances. What I liked was Eastwoods character, there is an important scene near the end that stands out from the rest as we get to feel this mans emotions, his wife has just found out that he has cheated on her and he begins to plead for her forgiveness telling her he can change. This was unexpected from such a potent man such as himself to break down in front of his wife and tell her that he actually feels some optimism and humanity in his heart.
Overall a good film with solid performances and interesting flashback scenes, we have been here before but its hard to craft the subject the way this film did. You should see this if you have a knack for mystery movies, or the patience to let the juices start to flow.
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