A Time To Kill

A Review by Jason L. King

Starring: Samuel L. Jackson, Matthew McConaughey, Kevin Spacey, Sandra Bullock
Directed By: Joel Schumacher
Rated: Rated R for violence and some graphic language
Movie Released: 2005

Final Grade: <

The film choice of the day was A Time To Kill, a 1996 film directed by Joel Schumacher based off the John Grisham film of the same name. This was a title that I picked up on DVD for $5 in a Wal-mart bargain bin for a rainy day watch. Well it turns out that today was that rainy day. The story is of Carl Lee Haily (Samuel L. Jackson) who kills 2 rednecks who raped his 10 year old daughter. Carl Lee takes vigilante justice into his own hands right in front of 50 people on the courthouse steps, so the case really doesn’t look to be a winner. However a young lawyer. played by Matthew McConauhey, steps in and takes Carl Lee’s case and tries to get him off on a plea of temporary insanity. Little does he know, this racial fueled Georgia case reignites the resurgance of the Ku Klux Klan.

Like every John Grisham book that is made into a film, the film doesn’t hold up to the books. Grisham is the master of the legal thriller novel, and can take the same formula and use it again and again and even again and have his fans eating out of his hand. Grisham fans drool like Pavalovian dogs at the mere sight of his novels and can’t wait to read them. However, for some reason his books just don’t translate to the big screen with the same power that they have in print form. The Firm, The Pelican Brief, The Rainmaker, The Client, The Runaway Jury and A Time to Kill are all OK films, but they really aren’t anything more than just that: OK films.

This film has a plethora of stars in the cast and lending thier hands to the film are Sandra Bullock, Kevin Spacey, Ashley Judd, Oliver Platt, Chris Cooper and Donald and Kiefer Sutherland to name a few. But despite all the star power it still seems flat. I felt like I was watching a high quality made for cable TV film. Something they show on TNT…(after all they know drama right?) None the less the film lacked and drug along at a drudging pace. It wasn’t too slow, it just really took it’s time getting to the end. It would be like watching a turtle race with only one turtle. You know the result, so why watch? It’s slow moving and at the end it’s still a turtle.

Some of the pacing issues might have been to blame on director Joel Schumacher. I’d like to preface that by saying I went into the film thinking, “oh God, Joel Schumacher made Batman and Robin.” Well, I had to remind myself Joel Schumacher has made a lot of great films such as Phone Booth, Tigerland, 8MM and Falling Down. He also made The Client (another mediocre Grisham adaptation). Joel just paces the film a bit slow and has a constant circus of actors streaming across the screen and it doesn’t do anything for me.

What I really did enjoy about the film was the ending. Sam Jackson does what he does best, yells. There is something fun about Sam Jackson screaming “Yes the deserve to die, and I hope they burn in hell!” The film also sports a powerful closing by McConauhey which I really enjoyed. But alas, it was a little underwhelming after the long ride.

While A Time To Kill is a decent flick, it’s nothing I think I would put on a must see rental list. If you are a reader, give the book a try. Grisham is great easy reading disposable stuff. It’s the legal world’s Dan Brown (DaVinci Code – non-readers!!). As for Grisham adaptations to film, try and try as they may, I still haven’t seen one pulled off perfectly yet.

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