John Grisham's bestseller A Time to Kill hits the screen with incendiary force, directed by Joel Schumacher (Batman Forever, The Client). Sandra Bullock, Samuel L. Jackson, Matthew McConaughey and Kevin Spacey portray the ... more »principals in a murder trial that brings a small Mississippi town's racial tensions to the flashpoint. Amid a frenzy of activist marches, Klan terror, media clamor and brutal riots, an unseasoned but idealistic young attorney mounts a stirring courtroom battle for justice. The superb ensemble also includes Brenda Fricker, Oliver Platt, Charles S. Dutton, Ashley Judd, Patrick McGoohan, Chris Cooper and both Donald and Keifer Sutherland. These and other talents make A Time to Kill "one ofthe year's most powerful films" (Jeffrey Lyons, SNEAK PREVIEW/ABC WORLD NEWS NOW).« less
Jennifer D. (jennicat) from ST AUGUSTINE, FL Reviewed on 3/29/2014...
Awesome! The acting was great!
1 of 1 member(s) found this review helpful.
Incredible is an Understatement, Deeply Moving
Ryan Costantino | Nowhere, Special | 02/16/2001
(5 out of 5 stars)
"John Grisham's tale of justifiable revenge was one of the best films of 1996. When a black man kills the two white rednecks who brutally raped and beat his daughter it seems his conviction of the murders will be cut and dry. So when the small town's lawyer is asked by the man (played with masterful skill by Samuel L. Jackson) to defend him it seems a hopeless cause. But when the klan gets involved the case becomes personal. This film is entirely unsettling because it makes us realize that events like this still happen in small towns throughout America, especially in the South. The themes of racism, of overcoming racism, of justifiable homicide, of justice outside the law are so superbly represented in this film that it seems impossible to me that this movie wasn't nominated for many Academy Awards. But alas, the past is the past. Chock full of great performances (especially Matthew McConaughey, Samuel L. Jackson, and Kevin Spacey) and masterful direction by Joel Schumacher, A Time to Kill is one heck of a movie. A true classic."
Gets better each time
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I saw this movie shortly after it came to video and thought it was a pretty good movie. Then a couple years later, I saw it again. And it just kind of stuck in my brain. I'll be reading or listening to something, and it will remind me of the movie. In conversations I bring up this film all the time because it is so relevant to important issues of our time. Racism, vigilante action, legal issues, etc. The more you watch this movie, the more it makes you think.And if you're not interested in thinking about some of the larger philosophical issues at hand, there's still plenty of stuff for you. You've got Matthew McConaughey who does a phenomenal job, and looks great while at it. Oliver Platt imbues his character with just the right amount of sleaze and charm that you can't help but love him. Donald Sutherland is absolutely lovable as the old-school gentleman (and you and your friends can argue over whether he's a lush or or a drunk/alcoholic). Sandra Bullock does a believable job, and the men tend to find Ashley Judd rather attractive in this role. And let's not forget Samuel L. Jackson, who makes his character so real that you understand the situation he's in and why he does what he does. So basically, there's something for everyone here. Thinking stuff with good looking people (male and female) who act well. Can't go wrong with this one."
Dynamite Cast with the best Grisham Adaptation on Film
Mark J. Fowler | Okinawa, Japan | 11/15/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
"What would it take to duplicate the cast of this film? Made only eight years ago I'd think today you'd break the bank putting together:
Matthew McConaughey Sandra Bullock Samuel L. Jackson Kevin Spacey Oliver Platt Charles Dutton Donald Sutherland Kiefer Sutherland Patrick McGoohan Ashley Judd Chris Cooper
The story is in some ways rather straightforward. Samuel Jackson's 10 year old daughter is raped and tortured by two rednecks in the opening minutes. Mercifully, the girl lives through the event and the two rednecks are arrested. Thinking that in Mississippi they're going to be acquitted "like them boys raped that girl last year" Samuel's Carl Lee Haley asks Matthew's Southern Lawyer Jake Brigance if he'd "help him out if he got into some trouble", then takes an M-16 and shoots the rednecks on the way to a court hearing, destroying Deputy Chris Cooper's leg in the process.
The rest of the movie seems pretty straight-forward, almost predictably so. Jake is tasked with defending a black man in Mississippi of murders which were committed in full sight of many people, including Jake himself and several law officers. Kiefer Sutherland, as the brother of one of the rednecks, enlists the assistance of the Klan to make sure that Carl "gets it" and to make sure that anyone attempting to help Carl is also intimidated (killed.... houses burned.... etc....) In this movie the Klan is a living, breathing entity with apparently much leeway to conduct its nefarious business.
Donald Sutherland is the alcoholic lawyer mentor of Jake - disbarred for some police violence during some political activism. Kevin Spacey is the ambitious District Attorney with a nomination for Governor in his back pocket. Charles Dutton is the black sheriff who doesn't hesitate to stand toe to toe with the Klan - the scenes where Klan members are in any way subdued are due to this strong character. Ashley Judd is Jake's pretty Mississippi Sorority-Belle wife who initially thinks that Jake accepts Carl Lee's case to "prove what a big-time lawyer" he is. When the Klan tries bombing Jake's house Ashley packs up their daughter and heads to the grandparent's house. On the first day of the case a hotshot law student comes wheeling into town, played by Sandra Bullock, wanting to make her name stamping out the death penalty.
The story is told in a linear fashion, but the performances make this compelling stuff. The NAACP come to town to provide for Carl's defense, and the scene where Carl tells them "thanks but no thanks" brings a new closeness to Carl and Jake. The movie provides for some riveting moments from Jackson as Carl and McConaughey as Jake. I've read that Mr. McConaughey delivered the summation scene in a single take. It is an astonishing piece of acting. There are several shots of extras crying, and I can't help but wonder if this wasn't an honest response to his performance.
There is a scene before the last trial scene where Carl tells Jake that he has hung onto him as his lawyer because "you one of the bad guys, Jake. I needs the jury to see me like you see me". If there is a weakness in the way that the story is told, it's that the whole movie is told the way the all-white jury would see it. The other black characters are brief and one-dimensional. Carl Lee's wife is in several scenes - looking concerned but with almost no dialogue. Since her daughter is raped and tortured and her husband is on trial, shouldn't we care as much about what SHE thinks as Jake's wife? We spend a fair amount of time watching what the Klan is doing. Shouldn't we be at least as interested in what the black community is doing?
Jake sets out to "prove a black man can get a fair trial in Mississippi". But can he prove that vigilante justice is ok even if everyone in the community knows that in race-hate-crimes in the world of this film black people can't expect fair treatment?
The movie reverberates with echoes of "To Kill a Mockingbird". Or at least it wants to. For a film of this type I can't think of a more admirable goal."
Michael J. Berquist | 03/23/2000
(4 out of 5 stars)
"John Grisham novels are difficult to rate as movies. On one hand Grisham's work translates to well to pop culture that his books are almost cinematic. On the other, the "book-is-never-as-good-as-the-movie"-ism applies. Some of Grisham's books have been quite good- "The Firm" was a terrifically exciting movie (Tom Cruise was letter-perfect for the role of Mitch McDeere), and "The Rainmaker" (which gave Matt Damon his start) certainly surprised me with a touching story of an underdog who upsets the system. Some have been mediocre to bad- "The Pelican Brief" and "The Chamber" fit the latter category, "The Client" the former. "A Time to Kill", in my opinion, is the best of them all because the author gives his audience a tough choice to make about what justice is. Pack in some sterling acting performances and this is one pretty darn good movie.The plot? After his young daughter is viciously raped and assaulted by rednecks (no, John Rocker doesn't have a cameo), Samuel L. Jackson guns down the two assailents on their way to court. He is subsequently put on trial by the local DA, and defended by an idealistic white attorney. Jackson's trial becomes a swirling tempest for local hatreds to be aired.Director Joel Schumacher certainly surprised me with good work, despite being the man who made "Batman & Robin". It helps to assemble some serious acting talent- Samuel L. Jackson and Kevin Spacey (the DA) are both recognized actors (Spacey having won an Oscar for "The Usual Suspects", and Jackson is *long* overdue for getting one himself), so the big surprise was Matthew McConaughey's sterling performance as the idealistic, passionate attorney who defends Jackson. McConaughey is a terrific actor- laid back, easy-going but with just enough passion and intensity. This movie put him on the map and it is easy to see why he is a talent in demand. Sandra Bullock and Ashley Judd have roles here but don't make much of an impression. Donald Sutherland and Keifer both have parts too- the former as Matthew McConaughey's mentor (a role he's quite good in, incidentally) and the latter as a local redneck. Finally, a word about the plot: the best movies give us a sticky problem that can't be resolved easily. The tricky choice in "Crimson Tide" is a beautiful example of a decision that could go either way and gives the audience something to debate about afterwards. Here we're given a tricky choice- vengeance or justice? Do we acquit Samuel L. Jackson because in our hearts he did what we all would do in his place? Or do we punish him for taking the law into his own hands? It's a rough choice to make, and the movie refuses to give us an easy answer.Well done."
Intense and Powerful
Ryan Costantino | 06/06/2003
(5 out of 5 stars)
"With an ensemble cast featuring the likes of Kevin Spacey, Sandra Bullock, Matthew McConaughey, Samuel Jackson, Ashley Judd, Kiefer and Donald Sutherland, Charles S. Dutton and Oliver Platt to name a few, you can safely bet that you won't be disappointed. I never get tired of watching this movie, which stars McConaughey as Jake Brigance, a relatively small-time lawyer until he is tapped to defend Carl Lee Hailey (Jackson) for the murder of two men who raped his young daughter, in the single-biggest and most controversial trial Clanton, MS has ever seen. McConaughey's performance is beyond inspiring as he turns his own life and the lives of those around him completely upside down by agreeing to represent a black murderer in a white-dominated Southern community. Playing his wife is Ashley Judd who is gut-wrenching in her own right. Sandra Bullock shines in every single role. Her work here as legal assistant Ellen Roark is top-notch, even for Bullock. Even Spacey, who I normally despise, is sterling as D.A. Buckley, the condescending adversary of Brigance. My most recent viewing of the film even compelled me to finally pick up the book, which is equally intense an experience as the film. You can't miss this."