A top cast consisting of veteran aces Gene Hackman and Faye Dunaway can't rescue this way-too-long, dreadfully earnest version of John Grisham's equally gimpy novel. There are several problems in this story of an intertwi... more »ned Southern family who must disentangle themselves from the past and the dark shadow of a 1967 bombing. That terrorist attack led to the deaths of two Jewish children and was pinned on the black-sheep patriarch of the family, a racist, card-carrying Klansman named Sam Cayhall (Hackman), who is now serving time on death row for the hate crime. Years later, the savior grandson cometh. Young-buck lawyer Adam Hall--played with righteous determination and limited range by Chris O'Donnell--pulls out all the stops to save his client from the Mississippi gas chamber. As is usual in Grisham country, the poor lawyer becomes embroiled in a plan more diabolical, corrupt, and layered than he could guess and the truth spirals out of control, endangering lives, and opening old wounds. The Chamber attempts to twist and turn through its plodding story, but there is no gray area in which to force the viewer to weigh his or her conscience against the skewed facts. Everything that occurs in The Chamber is black or white, good or bad, and there is no crisis of conflict to make us question the morality and stance of the two sides in play. The bad guys are awful, the politicians are bought off, the cops are either corrupt or apathetic, and only one puny guy is left to bring down a house of cards that's been standing solidly for decades. O'Donnell is quickly put to shame by Hackman, who even manages to suffer through a sadistically long, melodramatic stroll down death row with his dignity intact. --Paula Nechak« less
Michel D. (michelann) from WALNUT GROVE, MO Reviewed on 8/26/2017...
Very timely today as the "climate" is back to as volatile as it was decades ago! Family values pass down generation after generation and this extremely well written book then movie portrays how the young attorney who is grandson of a Klansman on death row tries to help keep him from the gas chamber. Chris O'Donnell does an incredible job as the idealistic lawyer with a fight on his hands. Gene Hackman always shines in every role he takes on and Faye Dunaway is daughter of the monster who may well deserve his punishment.
2 of 2 member(s) found this review helpful.
Nancy W. from CHARLOTTE, NC Reviewed on 12/20/2010...
Movie portrays a family with "a past" and perhaps not the past you'd like the world to know about. This young man shows strength and love.
1 of 2 member(s) found this review helpful.
Cathie R. from FALLON, NV Reviewed on 5/23/2010...
Good story, great actors -especially Gene Hackman. Another good movie from a John Grisham novel.
1 of 1 member(s) found this review helpful.
Michael Butts | Martinsburg, WV USA | 11/17/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Gene Hackman's electrifying performance dominates this adaptation of John Grisham's best selling novel. Hackman portrays Sam Cayhall, a man who's been on death row for sixteen years for the bombing of a lawyer's office that resulted in the death of the lawyer's two children. Cayhall is a vile man, who has lived a life of hatred and prejudice, the result of generations of such bigoted ancestors. Enter Chris O'Donnell as his young grandson, who is a lawyer and wants to reopen the case and spare his grandfather the gas chamber. What ensues is a painful exploration of hatred, prejudice and a dysfunctional family. I liked the movie, in spite of its several flaws. Hackman is phenomenal, and Chris O'Donnell does a good job as the naively innocent, but determined, young barrister. Faye Dunaway offers wonderful support as Hackman's estranged daughter who has lived a life of secrecy and guilt. Lela Rochon, Raymond Barry, David Marshall Grant and Robert Prosky offer fine support too. I found myself involved in the movie, and feel it didn't offer any easy answers. Hackman is a guilty man, but his performance is so well doone that one can't help but feel sorry for the life he has chosen, and the life he has sacrificed. I think it's well worth viewing."
Acting that ought to knock anyone's socks off
Christina Brooks | Sydney, N.S.W Australia | 01/01/2000
(5 out of 5 stars)
""The Chamber" is long, quiet and infinitely better the second time around, which makes it pretty seriously good indeed. Whatever you think of the plot and the completely salient points it makes on the subject of capital punishment the true joys of "The Chamber" are the performances of Faye Dunaway and Gene Hackman each of which are nothing short of astonishing. Dunaway's creation of Cayhall's daughter is as powerful, multi-layered and profound as anything she has ever done. Gene Hackman deserves to be inducted into the great actors hall of fame for his portrayal of Sam Cayhall. As his execution draws closer his moods swing through the gamut of human emotion creating a complete and almost unbearably real but flawed human person facing certain death. A best actor oscar should have been given for this performance. If acting is your job or something that you see all too rarely ignore the carping critics who found their sensibilities rubbed the wrong way and get "The Chamber" it improves with each viewing and says some very deep things about life and exactly what it means to be human. Highly recommended."
Devastatingly good - a real soul searcher
Christina Brooks | 04/20/1999
(5 out of 5 stars)
"i had to watch the chamber as part of a class project and i thought it would be a typical story witha happy ending as usual grisham writes a top rated book which gets you at the heart and leans on the subject of the gas chamber - a truly excellent book which gets you thinking that you don't know what freedom is until it is taken away"
Book or Movie?
Andrea Dykyj | PA, USA | 01/20/2002
(2 out of 5 stars)
"I have read the book and seen the movie and have to admit that this movie did not reach it's full potential.
This movie is about a Sam Cayhall(Hackman), a convicted murderer of two young Jewish boys in a Ku Klux Klan bombing. Cayhall has sat inside his little cell in the MSU of the Mississippi state penitentary counting the days until that faitful day when he takes his last breath in the chamber. His grandson Adam Hall('o Donnell) will not stand for it. As a lawyer he has been interested in this perticular case for many years and will not give up until he wins. He fights along the side of his bitter and hateful kin, putting up with every back stabbing comment only to get this man the freedom that most people think that he does not deserve. Now at the age of 70, he will have to fight until time runs out.
I understand that sometimes people have to cut things from the movie because they feel that it is not making it any better, but this is RIDICULOUS! While watching this movie, I felt like it was a two minute long movie. He kills, he fights, he dies. That is basically it. All of the good side plots have been cut. Being a big fan of these types of movies and books, this proved to be a major dissapointment to me. I actually feel bad for such an excellent actor like Gene Hackman to be involved in this monstrosity! He gave an excellent performance and THAT is worth watching. Everything else is just an eyesore. JUST READ THE BOOK (it may be long, but worthwhile)!After reading the book, I was quite surprised at how much important information was cut. Though there is some excellent talent in this film, it still falls way short of any awards. I think that anybody would be better off reading the book than watching this movie. You should definitely read the book first and maybe even (ugh) see the movie. Compare the two and help me prove my point. The only reason that I gave this movie any stars was because I was pleased with the acting, not the script!"
What Is Justice? What Is Evil?
Andrea Dykyj | 06/09/1999
(3 out of 5 stars)
"There are few clearcut issues in life, and Grisham explores so many gray areas in The Chamber. Can a truly evil man be remorseful and transformed? Is justice sometimes inappropriate, too harsh or excessive? Gene Hackman gives a tremendous portrayal as a racist slimeball sentenced to the gas chamber for a horrific hate bombing in the 60's, where Jewish twin boys were blown to bits. The movie describes all the legal maneuvering to keep him from his date with the executioner. Is Hackman a changed man? Does he regret his actions? Is he remorseful? Is he foolishly and blindly protecting someone? Is it in society's best interest to kill him some 30 years after his crime? These are the moral questions that swirl around inside the Chamber. The answers are up to you........"