A Time to Kill (1996)

And so it goes something like this:  rednecks rape a little girl; 
her black father (Samuel L. Jackson) guns them down in a courtroom; 
a young white lawyer (Matthew McConaughey) refuses to budge from 
the center of a high-profile, small-town trial; a local chapter of 
the Klan is formed; the NAACP comes to town; crosses are burned; 
riots erupt; tourism to rural Mississippi plummets to an all-time 
low; a visiting law student (Sandra Bullock) flirts; an ambitious 
District Attorney (Kevin Spacey) schemes; a crusty judge (Patrick 
McGoohan) cautions everyone against grand-standing, which of course 
they do, while glistening in sheets of sweat as they attempt to 
work their high-paid tongues around what must be a dozen different 
variations on the traditional Southern accent.  All that's missing 
is a cameo from Gregory Peck, y'all.

As adapted from the John Grisham best seller, A TIME TO KILL is as 
shamelessly string-pulling as INDEPENDENCE DAY.  There isn't an 
ounce of depth-of-feeling to the characters, but you can project in 
all you care to.  (Especially during the racial confrontations, 
which may be the most gratuitous depictions that we've seen since 
MISSISSIPPI BURNING.)  Blame an over-ambitious story.  The movie 
runs for about two-and-a-half hours and it's still too short.  
Director Joel Schumacher (working from a script by his BATMAN 
FOREVER and CLIENT collaborator Akiva Goldsman) paints in broad-
but-succinct strokes.  The plot merrily churns away and most people 
probably won't notice that they are reacting more to the dramatic 
devices than to the characters.  No problem.  A TIME TO KILL is 
easily the most entertaining of the Grisham films.  The plot makes 
sense, the acting is superb, and there's even a minor message 
delivered at the very end.  Not bad for a summer movie.  (Rated 
"R"/~150 min.)

Grade: B

Copyright 1996 by Michael J. Legeros

Originally posted to triangle.movies in MOVIE HELL: July 14, 1996

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