Have You Ever Seen a Single Tennis Shoe in the Road?
Alejandra Vernon | Long Beach, California | 08/10/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
""Deliberate Intent" is a fascinating film based on the book by First Amendment scholar and law professor Ron Smolla, detailing the 1997 Paladin Enterprises, Inc. vs. Rice case. It concerns "Hit Man: A Technical Manual for Independent Contractors," a book that gave step by step instructions on how to murder, and the killing of 3 people in 1993 by someone who followed those instructions. It is one of the most intellectually challenging films I have seen in a long time, and is brilliantly constructed and acted to present both sides of the argument.
There was an unusual agreement between the author and the publisher. The author, who usually assumes liability for their work, was not only free of liability but also had their identity protected. This stemmed from the publisher wanting "Hit Man," which was originally conceived as a novel, to be written as a "users manual". The two sides of this case, whether this went beyond the rights of free speech, or was protected by the First Amendment, and how Smolla's mind was changed from one view to another, is the central focus of the film. It also details the murder of the 3 people, and how "Hit Man" played a part in it. Some people think the case "murdered the First Amendment" along with the victims, others think it went way beyond its boundaries.
The performances are low-key and superb. Timothy Hutton gives another solid performance as Smolla. Hutton is a vastly underrated actor that excels in portraying characters that are more mental than flamboyant, and the part of Smolla fits him like a velvet glove. Ron Rifkin is marvelous as Howard Siegel, the attorney who pesters Smolla into taking the case. Clark Johnson, who was Dt. Meldrick Lewis, my favorite actor/character on "Homicide: Life on the Street," is perfect as the hit man, James Perry, as is James McDaniel, as Lawrence Horn, the man who hires Perry to kill his family. On the defense side of the case, there is Bill McDonald as Peder Lund, publisher of Paladin Enterprises, and Cliff De Young as his defense attorney.
There are no weak links in this way above average TV film, making all of its 85 minutes riveting. This is a film I wished had been longer, as I was enjoying the thought-provoking premise of it so much. Written and directed by Andy Wolk, it also has a marvelous, atmospheric score by Harald Kloser. After you watch this film, you will never see a single shoe in the road (one of the "Hit Man" instructions) without remembering "Deliberate Intent."
Well worth watching
HOKESE | australia | 11/04/2003
(4 out of 5 stars)
"a brillant movie.also a very well executed murder done by a ameture fuelled by a step by step guid to kill in cold blood.with info on everything to wear,plus info on weapons to use.he grabs his book and goes out to comit cold blood murder in execution style. a well done true story that is well acted out.plus if u like court room battles this one is for you!"
So So Movie Can't Handle Complicated Issue
Bibliophile Betty | New York | 01/09/2010
(3 out of 5 stars)
"The film "Deliberate Intent," about the court case surrounding the book "Hit Man," was just ok thanks to poor framing of the issue and hammy moments untrue to the law itself. The case involved a family suing the publisher of the book after a man used it as a guide in a kill for hire scheme paid for by the family's ex-husband. The case was potentially explosive in that it challenged the First Amendment's sanctity and could have destabilized the entire fabric of our lives in the America. Unfortunately, in the film this highly controversial freedom of speech court case became far too cut and dry with the publisher branded "evil" and money hungry, and the family that sued him the perfectly justified victims.
For example, in a freakishly bad bit of lawyer murkiness, Hutton's law professor speaks to the publisher he's suing when they are alone in an elevator together and his lawyer is not present! Asking him (in ham fashion) "How do you sleep at night?" Oh! The evil publisher replies that he has no problems sleeping at all! Even without a law degree this seems both ethically dubious and cheesy. Another problem is the family is never challenged about what their anger over the loss of family members (expressed via court case) could do for people in America for every generation to come who will have lost a crucial right! Ruin the country for a few million dollars? Sure, why not.
The fact is that first amendment right to free speech - as long as you're not shouting fire in a crowded theatre or inciting riot on a street corner - is sacrosanct because it governs so much of our daily conduct, and this case was an extremely dangerous threat to that right.
In the film's framing of this issue, Hutton's lawyer was arguing that a book detailing behavior in a "how to..." format is equivalent to commanding someone to engage in that behavior and thus the publisher is responsible - since the book including a clause excluding the writer from liability. This sort of argument means that the reader has no free will and cannot be held accountable for their conduct! If you burn down your house following a cookbook's directions, should the publisher pay for your house to be rebuilt? Of course not.
Ironically, but left untouched in the film, is the fact that the man sent to death row for the crime could use Hutton and the victim's family's argument on appeal to say that he could not help himself! The book made him do it! Ultimately the written word is simply that, and the film leaves unobserved the scary "what might have been" if the case had gone to trial! People wantonly suing other people for their own stupidity, and everyone terrified to publish or write anything that someone can say motivated them to commit a crime!"