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: Neo-Noir Quest 3 - Criminal Law (1988)  ( 168 )

« : November 12, 2017, 01:29:03 AM »

Boston based neo-noir fails to ignite.

Criminal Law is directed by Martin Campbell and written by Mark Kasdan. It stars Gary Oldman, Kevin Bacon, Tess Harper, Karen Young and Joe Don Baker. Music is by Jerry Goldsmith and cinematography by Philip Meheux.

Boston attorney Ben Chase (Oldman) successfully defends Martin Thiel (Bacon) who is on trial for a sexually aggravated murder. But not long after Chase comes to realise Thiel's guilt and sets about correcting the wrong he helped orchestrate.

If you have never seen a legal thriller before, or a serial killer based neo-noir for that matter, then Criminal Law might just poke its head above average waters. Unfortunately the well is quite full of such filmic exercises, and much better they are too!

It's all so formulaic, where the potent promise of character disintegration into a hellish noir infused world is never fully realised. Instead we get characters whose actions are at times baffling, others who are under used or pointless scene fillers, and a screenplay cracking under the strain of a near two hour run time. Add in some poor accents for the setting, one of Goldsmith's worst scores and a damp squib finale, well you are struggling continually to get on board with it all. There's a high energy sex scene where the makers are clearly showing what their intentions were, in how stuck in a web of turmoil Chase is, but it just proves how muddled and rickety the narrative is.

Positives come in the form of the visual look of the piece, Meheux (GoldenEye/Casino Royale) showing some nice stylish touches, most notably a dark underground set of scenes where slatted shadows operate as the noir staple of a character psychologically imprisoned, but these moments are fleeting and the story begs for more. Elsewhere, the killer's motives are at least interesting, adding in a controversial moral poser, and Elizabeth Shepherd as Thiel's mother is superbly cold and detached (pic needed more of her). But ultimately it's a disappointing film and not recommended as a must see. 5/10

DVD - Region 2.

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