3 posts categorized "Courtroom Drama"

January 22, 2021


Trial_of_the_chicago_sevenGlib. Forgettable. Writer/director Aaron Sorkin gets out his arsenal of narrative formula templates to simplify an otherwise complex story of ‘60s era political theater. The effect is entertaining up to a point before it hits you that Robert Altman would have been much better at telling the story at hand if he were still alive. Hell, Oliver Stone would have done a better job.

The trial in question arose from the actions of a group of anti-Vietnam War protesters during the 1968 Democratic National Convention in Chicago. The film’s ensemble of actors (Yaha Abdul-Mateen II, Sacha Baron Cohen, Daniel Flaherty, Joseph Gordon, Levitt, Michael Keaton, Frank Langella, Eddie Redmayne, Mark Rylance, Jeremy Strong, and John Carroll Lynch) give credible performances that come across as an afterthought in the context of Sorkin’s heavy hand.

Screen Shot 2021-01-22 at 11.02.30 PM

Courtroom dramas are a notoriously prickly genre to begin with. This one finds Aaron Sorkin falling on his own sword. The movie plays more as a showpiece of Hollywood machinery than as a filmic document of a crisis of ideologies at a time when it seemed that the People might get a leg up on the corruption at the heart of the American war machine. As if such a thing could be possible.

Chicago 7

From a technical standpoint, “The Trial of the Chicago 7” is serviceable but Sorkin’s knee-jerk quick-cutting crutch wears out its welcome. Aaron Sorkin’s motivations for making the movie in our current political climate seems like a foregone conclusion. Nothing has the emotional weight it purports to possess even if the actors are compelling in their roles as voices of dissent. The problem is that Sorkin wants so badly to deliver a feel-good movie that he misses all of the heartbreak inflicted on the accused activists who never agreed on anything. This is a Cheese Whiz movie for 12-year-olds, not for adults.  

Chicago 7

Rated R. 129 mins.

Two Stars

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January 13, 2018


Mollys_gameScreenwriter Aaron Sorkin’s directorial debut is a polished medium-budget adaptation of Olympic-skier-turned-poker-queen Molly Bloom’s book of the same title. Jessica Chastain is well cast as the title character, a business-minded entrepreneur who became the target of a legal attack from the F.B.I. after running a high-stakes poker in Southern California and midtown Manhattan. 

Molly lucks out when she secures Charlie Jaffey (Idris Elba) as her legal counsel. Sorkin's creative narrative structure plays as a courtroom drama in reverse. The fun lies with watching an intelligent, independent-minded woman launch a highly profitable business while learning on the fly in the company of big male egos trying to outdo one another. 


Sorkin uses tightly composed scenes, packed with lean dialogue, to form volatile sequences that unite exposition with motivation and visual panache. On-screen graphics embellish poker sequences to telegraph inside information about the hands being played with a voice-over bump. The film isn't want for aside-slipping sense of humor either. This is quality cinematic storytelling. If only Hollywood made more films in the vein of “Molly’s Game.”  

Molly's Game

Rated R. 140 mins. (B+) (Three stars — out of five / no halves) 

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Groupthink doesn't live here.

March 13, 2011


ColesmitheyMystery writer Michael Connelly's series of spin-off books provides the basis for this sturdy but rushed legal thriller. Matthew McConaughey ages nicely into the role of hotshot Los Angeles defense attorney Mick Haller. Mick's rolling office is his vintage Lincoln Continental (thus the title). He works out of the vehicle's backseat as his driver jockeys him to appointments. Mick lives his job from all angles. A smooth operator, he knows how to make a buck off the front and back end of a deal.


Inevitably the crafty counselor meets his match in the form of a Beverly Hills brat accused of trying to murder a prostitute. Defendant Louis Roulet (Ryan Phillippe) is the son of a wealthy real estate saleswoman. The accused handpicks Mick to handle his defense. It turns out that Roulet is intimately familiar with the confidentiality aspect of attorney/client privilege. Like any other defense client, Roulet swears his innocence. Phillippe is ideally cast but isn't given enough screen time to fully flesh out his multifaceted character.


"The Lincoln Lawyer" is a thoroughly entertaining mystery thriller that leaves you wanting more. I wouldn't be surprised to see it turn into a franchise.

The Lincoln Lawyer Picture 4

Rated R. 119 mins. 

3 Stars

Groupthink doesn't live here, critical thought does.

This website is dedicated to Agnès Varda and to Luis Buñuel.

Get cool rewards when you click on the button to pledge your support through Patreon.

Cole Smithey on Patreon

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