This film is a must-see for die-hard Pacino fans and should-see for fans interested in viewing an enjoyable film with a statement that remains timely over time.
'And Justice For All' is nearing one-quarter of a century in age and while Pacino has matured as an actor, his role in this film definitely deserved the nominations for the Oscar and Golden Globe that it garnered. The closing courtroom scene provided a very strong glimpse and more than a hint of the brilliance to come in Pacino's superior acting ability, as well as a striking and disturbing statement on the justice system. As billed this was a satire on the world of the courts and while not your normal courtroom film, it contained a revealing and bleak message. Reviewers who have indicated the incidents in this film were not realistic have much to learn about the inner workings of justice. This was a dire, but accurate depiction of the inner workings of courthouses all over the land.
The cast was filled with an unbelievable array of actors, both new and seasoned, and famous and not-so-famous. The big-screen debut of Christian Lahti (Gail Packer)was not her best role and not necessarily the best co-star for Pacino; her performance was however adequate. Jack Warden (Judge Rayford) was comfortable and effective as a gruff old judge with a simultaneous death wish and a zeal for life. Jeffery Tambor (Jay Porter) gave a compelling performance as Pacino's partner pushed to a mental breaking point by the unfortunate outcome of a case where as an attorney Porter did what an attorney is paid to do. The late Robert Christian's (Ralph Agee) performance as a cross-dressing client was perhaps one of the best in the film; heartbreaking and very real. John Forsythe (Judge Henry Fleming), post 'Charlie's Angels' and 'Bachelor Father', but pre-'Dynasty' was smug and hard-nosed as both Pacino's courthouse adversary and deviant client. Craig T. Nelson (Frank Bowers), perhaps best known as Coach Hayden Fox, early in his career in this film was the DA Pacino meets in court in the final trial. Larry Bryggman (Warren Fresnell), probably recognized most as Dr. John Dixon of 'As The World Turns', but also a Shakespearean actor, has an important role as a less dedicated and passionate fellow attorney. Lee Stasberg (Sam Kirkland), famed drama coach to Pacino and so many other great actors, in his final role portrayed Pacino's grandfather in quite a touching and personal manner. Even Keith Andes (Marvin Bates), star of numerous movies in the 1950s, appeared. Many other actors appeared in the courthouses and jails of the film, fleshing out the multiple side stories that served to illustrate the injustices of justice.
The commentary by Norman Jewison was created from 22-year old memories, but you have to give them credit for providing it, as many of DVDs of older films just skip commentaries or any special features. The public now looks forward to this personal insider-information about the making of our favorite films, and this one doesn't disappoint given the limitations of time and distance.
This films displays the dynamic acting range of Pacino. While somewhat more low-key in some instances than in many of his later roles, Pacino appears comfortable in his portrayal of a caring, deeply passionate attorney and more than rises to the occasion when that passion is called upon to be displayed. He handles the humorous side of his role with ease. Pacino's appearance on David Letterman prior to the recent release of 'Simone' revealed his personal sense of humor and ability to be a very, very funny man. That innate comedic timing was visible in the role of Attorney Arthur Kirkland.
"And Justice For All' uncovers the many broken spokes in the wheels of justice, entertains with humor and pathos, and leaves you with an true understanding of many of the inconsistencies and frustrating bureaucratic quagmires of the legal system that still exist nearly 25 years later.
This was a film ahead of its time in regard to its message, and it gave us: Pacino on the edge of greatness; satire at its best; and entertainment that continues to prevail. Don't let lukewarm reviews of this solid offering deter you from seeing it; this is a film not to be missed.
on July 10, 2004
Ever since watching the Godfather films I've been a huge Al Pacino fan. His amazing over-the-top performance in the courtroom scene at the end is what makes this unsympathetic look at our criminal justice system so memorable. However, I agree with other reviewers that the plot is slow at times & the movie wavers uncomfortably between comedy & drama. The humor is at times a little too forced & the disco music doesn't help. One of the things I really enjoyed was seeing the great Lee Strasberg play Pacino's grandfather. Remember Godfather Part 2 when Pacino had Strasberg "taken out"? I only wish they could've made more films together. The great cast also includes John Forsythe (who plays a TOTALLY unlikable villian), & Jack Warden, whose suicidal antics get annoying after a while. Of course, it's Pacino that makes this movie so entertaining & so watchable 25 years later. While it's no masterpiece I still highly recommend it to Al Pacino fans (& especially lawyers!).
on July 3, 2006
Director: Norman Jewison
Cast: Al Pacino, Jack Warden, John Forsythe, Lee Strasberg, Jeffrey Tambor, Christine Lahti, Sam Levene, Robert Christian, Craig T. Nelson, Terri Wooten.
Running Time: 119 minutes
Rated R for language and some violence.
There were quite a few of these types of films in the seventies, not really comedies or dramas per se, but a clever mixture of both, and part of the reason that the '70s are regarded by many as the richest era for films & film-making. Another sample which comes to mind is "Mother, Jugs, and Speed" - not as good, but comparable. These films point to a darkly humorous take on our existence, usually taking place in modern, contemporary times, and in an urban setting. In this one, the legal - justice system is targeted; it's the system we supposedly depend on and which elevates our nation (the U.S.) above the rabble of the world. But the way it's examined here, the system doesn't really work. It's geared towards those with the power (read: money) and most of those incarcerated, it seems to say, are there by an awful whim of fate. Most lawyers (Pacino plays a particularly compassionate one) function merely to make the suffering of these innocents a bit less grueling, through kissing the butts of hard-line judges (Forsythe is a particularly mean one).
The film opens with Arthur Kirkland (Al Pacino) spending the night in "the can" for contempt of court for taking a swing at Judge Flemings (John Forsythe) who was presiding on a case that Arthur had before his bench. Having to face a review board to see if he's fit to be a lawyer and facing possible disbarment, Arthur starts to wonder if all the work that he put into going through law school and in passing the Maryland State Bar to become a member of the law profession was really worth it. With his career on the line Arthur is suddenly given the job to defend the very Judge who would want nothing better then to have him disbarred Judge Henry T. Fleming. Accused of assault battery and rape of a local call girl Leah Shepard (Terri Wooten), it turns out that Arthur is the best person to defend the judge since it would prove that even he, who hates Flaming with a vengeance, has to defend his client to the best of his ability.
It's a one-sided view, to be sure, that we have here: those who are truly guilty, such as child-killers, get released on technicalities and proceed to murder the next day, causing at least for one lawyer (Tambor) a spin down to a nervous breakdown. Do such things really happen in real life? Surely. But, here it's de rigueur, as if looking at the world through a funhouse mirror, a sly distortion. It's amusing to view this satire on our society's ills and we can laugh, with a bit of discomfort, at a picture of what passes for rule of law or justice. But it's probably more gratifying to see Pacino, Warden and the rest acting their best, mostly 'New York-style' (though this takes place in Baltimore). Pacino's character really shouldn't be a lawyer; he feels too much and is a genuine human being, where as everyone else is caught up in the abstracts of winning in the system. Even Pacino's new girlfriend (Lahti in her first movie role), though appearing sympathetic to his dilemmas, is just another cog in the system. When he explains his biggest problem to her in the last act, instead of heartfelt advice, she gives him a list of options, as if she was his, well, lawyer. Pacino's all alone in this picture. All his peers have enclosed themselves in callous shells. His only outlet, a grandpa (acting teacher Strasberg) is moving steadily into senility. His stand-in father-judge (Warden) is literally giving in to the craziness. It all points to the thrilling finale of Pacino's opening statement during the climactic trial. Where in action pictures it usually points to a thrilling final battle, in this type of picture it's a thrilling monologue by the main actor. Pacino's all alone up there and his rendition is worth the price of admission by itself. Oftentimes hilarious and full of sadness the next, a superb satire with mesmerizing performances and a smart script.
Please note: This review is ONLY for the 2008 re-release. If you are reading this and it is under the 2001 release, this review is not for that edition and amazon.com has grouped it together.
It's amazing watching Al Pacino chew the scenery. Norman Jewison's dramatic satire of the judicial system "...And Justice For All" has plenty for Pacino to chew on along with his co-stars Jeffrey Tambor, Jack Warden, Lee Strasberg, Craig T. Nelson and Christine Lahti (in one of her first major screen roles). Pacino manages to get every morsel of nutrition out of a scene. The meaty script allows Pacino's co-stars to equal him scene for scene which is perfect for a dramatic satire of this sort.
Opening with images of an empty court house with children reciting the Pledge of Allegiance, "And Justice for All" represents a satire as broad and powerful as "Network" in eviscerating the justice system as that other film did TV. Pacino plays attorney Arthur Kirkland the type of attorney who becomes very involved in his client's cases going to bat for them in a big way or in this case providing a knock out punch worthy of a boxing match. For example when we first meet him he's in lock up on a contempt charge for hitting a corrupt judge (John Forsythe) when he didn't agree with his decision. As luck would have it (or karma depending on your point of view), the very same judge has been charged with the rape of a young girl. He turns to Kirkland because he realizes that the attorney is passionate about his cases and that their adversarial relationship will prevent any later charges of a cover up. Kirkland has to overcome his distaste for the judge and manage a trial that could make or break what's left of his legal career.
A marked improvement over the first edition from 2001 which had plenty of analog imperfections and didn't look much better than a top notch high quality VHS transfer, the colors are more accurate and the film has much better detail and sharpness. Keep in mind that this is a film made in 1979 so you are going to see grain (it was shot on a grainy film stock to begin with)and it's not going to pop like a film from 2008 but that's also part of the charm of this classic. It looks exactly how it should.
Audio hasn't been remixed for 5.1 and is still in the original mono. It is a slight improvement over the original audio with slightly better clarity and dialogue coming through clearly but it still sounds flat without much depth.
Be aware that part of this digital clean up and remaster may have been prepared for the Blu-ray that will eventually hit the street. If you have a Blu-ray player you may want to wait to see if it does, indeed, street some time in the immediate future.
The extras for this edition are a marked improvement over the 2001 release, we get the original commentary by Norman Jewison ported over for this edition. It's a fun and involving commentary and it's clear that Jewison is enjoying watching the film as much as we are.
We also get a pair of extremely good interviews with director Jewison and co-writer Barry Levinson discussing the making of the film. Jewison is always a joy to listen to and he relates a story about Lahti first being cast. Jewison liked her and was hesitant about putting in the film because she's taller than Pacino (quite a bit actually) and he didn't know how Pacino would feel about it. He saw her performance and thought she was brilliant so he insisted that she be in the film.
We also get a preview for Pacino's new film "88 Minutes", the original theatrical trailer and deleted scenes. As an additional promotional move Sony has included the acclaimed pilot for the excellent legal drama "Damages". As to how "Damages" looks you'll have to read my review of that TV show.
Finally we get previews for "Close Encounters: The Special Edition" which features all three versions of the film as well as a huge assortment of extras (you'll have to read my review of that set to get an insight into what is included, etc.) and "Taxi Driver: Special Collector's Edition". The latter preview is presented in a modern, annoyingly edited format with an annoying dance score that has absolutely nothing to do with the film itself. I suppose they are trying to suck in the younger crowd who have never seen one of De Niro's finest and most disturbing performances (and that's saying quite a bit). Finally we get a preview for the contemporary underrated thriller "We Own the Night".
A marked improvement over the 2001 release of "...And Justice For All", this edition looks better and comes loaded. I can highly recommend this digitally remastered classic.
on February 18, 2004
The title of Dave Grusin's theme song aptly sums up this movie: The music may sound cheesy at times, but remember this film was made in the late 70s. As stated in his commentary, Jewison wanted a cheesy psuedo-disco to reflect the satrical nature of the film.
The origins of Al Pacino's over the top acting style has to be traced to this film, especially in the court room scene. Another great line in his speech has to be "The DA is not going to get him,
I'M GOING TO GET HIM!!" At times, the movie doesn't know if it wants to be a pure comedy or pure drama, but there are enough great moments that make this film an enjoyable experience.
on July 2, 2008
Basically, this movie is about the struggle between the people who corrupt justice and manipulate it for their own ends, and the people who honesty try to uphold it. Al Pacino is a good honest lawyer, but from the start of the movie, we get the impression that he is nearing the end of his rope (if not already there). (He is basically the opposite of his character in "The Devil's Advocate.") He is worn down largely due to the fact that he has been trying to get an innocent man out of jail while fighting the corrupt Judge Forsythe. Forsythe seems to believe in keeping with the strict letter of the law, even if it does not uphold the intent of the law. (So, this sets the mood for the movie.)
Along the way, Al Pacino tries to help a cross dresser minor felon (Ralph) who messed up, but is not really a dangerous or bad person. Pacino knows that Ralph is sorry for what he did, and that due to his cross dressing, he will never survive if he ends up in jail.
Along the way, Judge Forsythe is arrested for rape, and literally comes crawling to Al Pacino for help. With just a bit of intelligence, we can see that he wants Pacino to defend him because Pacino has no political ties, and he has a reputation for being honest. Because of Pacino's hatred for Forsythe, he is reluctant, but Pacino eventually strikes a deal with him. Pacino will defend him if Forsythe allows Pacino a chance to get an innocent man out of jail.
The movie continues to attack certain aspects of the justice system such as overly light punishments, or plea bargaining that should have been given some more thought. Craig T. Nelson as the DA is an interesting character. He seems to be on the egotistical side, but he does express the intent of the movie at times: "People are getting pi..ed at the law, and I have a chance to change that."
Another interestingly complex character is the suicidal judge Jack Warden. For the most part, he seems to be a decent judge who wants to carry out the law. But throughout the movie, he tries to kill himself several times. (Perhaps the movie is sympathetic to him in that he is trying to uphold fairness in a chaotic world.)
Al Pacino gradually sees his world crumble before him, and this is topped off by his finding that his client Forsythe may really be guilty of raping a young woman. The movie ends with a great passage on the flaw of the justice system: "Both sides want to win, regardless of the truth."
This movie is a real masterpiece that explores not only problems with the justice system, but corruption and deception as well.
on June 14, 2005
If you are not a lawyer - or if you are - and you want to know what the justice system is really like, this is the movie to watch: bored judges, lazy/incompetent attorneys; hypocritical and arbitrary ethics boards and, the ultimate: "Truth is what you can prove it to be in court" reality. The movie is dated since it does not show the Bush/Gonzales excesses of torturing those we pretend are enemies of the state, or imprisoning them in dog runs until they die, but this it "dead on" in its portrayal of the "justice" system in the US [not detailing the places where it is a lot worse]
on January 26, 2006
Regarding the aspect ratio of this DVD, there are some copies that have both widescreen and full screen on a 2-sided disc. Other copies have only the cropped full-screen (pan & scan) version. There is no indication whatsoever on the cover which version you are getting. Only a careful reading of the back cover will clue you off. I mention this as a "caveat emptor" for widescreen fans, such as myself. If you really do want the 1.85:1 widescreen version you might be better off purchasing this in a store where you can examine the specs on the back cover.
on August 18, 1999
Yes...the story is fragmented, not cohesive, and generally unsure as a comedy, tragedy or satire. SOOOOOOO What!!! Do not miss Pacino in this one..he is amazing. He gets mad at the judicial system for all of us and gets even too. Some of the dialogue cuts to the bone. There are moments of greatness and those of mediocrity but finally and forever there is Al Pacino, an acting legend in his own time!
on February 10, 2006
seems like there was a time in the 70s where mainstream filmmakers took their art and their audiences seriously. this gem about courtroom corruption is one of pacino's best movies and his final courtroom monologue is as good as any in film.