Monday, March 15, 2010

A Time to Kill (March 15, 2010)

I read John Grisham's original novel "A Time to Kill" when I was a teenager and thought this movie would tone it down. The movie doesn't, though. It doesn't pull many punches, and now that I'm old and decrepit, I can even see better how the ending of this movie packs a greater emotional punch than the ending of the book (which drags on and on and ON forever and doesn't know how to wrap up or when to shut up). Movie adaptations are usually worse than the original books, but this is one case where I would argue that the movie is actually better than the original book (and I think all of John Grisham's movies are better than his books...I like them, but he doesn't know how to say what he wants to say and he gets in his own way too much...I like the movies better because they sum things up and get to the point a lot faster than his books do).

This movie is a harrowing story. In the beginning, a ten year old little girl is repeatedly raped by two racist Neanderthals, and when their attempt to kill her fails, they are eventually arrested and brought to trial. Her father hears that they might get a light sentence and he snaps and guns them down in the courthouse (I'd make a joke about how you don't fuck with Samuel L. Jackson, but it hardly seems appropriate given the circumstances). He is arrested and put on trial for their murder, and a young attorney has to represent him and try to see if a black man accused of killing two white men in the south can get a fair trial (HA, I say HA, even today, almost 20 years after this book was published). As you can imagine, the movie isn't a laff riot, and things get pretty grim and racist and icky and they make me want to turn off the TV. The movie at least TRIES to have an uplifting message, whereas the book is pretty bleak and hopeless. This movie is worth seeing for the summation speech alone (the argument that the defense attorney gives before the jury begins deliberations at the end of the trial).

This movie is hard to watch. You should watch it anyway.

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