EVERYTHING ABOUT A MOVIE?
|12 ANGRY MEN (director: Sidney Lumet; screenwriter: Reginald Rose/from teleplay by Reginald Rose; cinematographer: Boris Kaufman; editor: Carl Lerner; music: Kenyon Hopkins; cast: Henry Fonda (Juror #8), Lee J. Cobb (Juror #3), Ed Begley, Sr. (Juror No. 10), E.G. Marshall (Juror #4), Jack Klugman (Juror #5), Jack Warden (Juror #7), Martin Balsam (Juror #1), Joseph Sweeney (Juror #9), John Fiedler (Juror #2), Ed Binns (Juror #6), George Voskovec (Juror #11), Robert Webber (Juror #12); Runtime: 96; MPAA Rating: NR; producers: Reginald Rose/Henry Fonda; MGM Home Entertainment; 1957)|
keeps things tense, sweaty, suspenseful and entertaining despite the
contrived story line."
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
The 32-year-old TV director Sidney Lumet's ("The Group"/"Serpico"/"Prince of the City") impressive debut film adapts a Reginald Rose teleplay, written by Rose, and manages to overcome its claustrophobic sweltering summertime NYC setting in the one jury deliberation room through the innovative visuals of cinematographer Boris Kaufman. It's about a sober-minded liberal architect, Juror #8 (Henry Fonda), who spends the entire film to convince his 11 colleagues to reconsider the guilt of a troubled JD slum-dwelling Puerto Rican 18-year-old on trial for fatally sticking a switch-blade knife in his abusive ex-con father's chest. The seemingly open-and-shut first-degree murder trial, lasting six days, is one that requires a unanimous verdict for the accused to get sentenced to the electric chair. It turns out to be not that simple, as the kid's shoddy defense from his court-appointed attorney gets retried in the jury room by the lone hold-out, Juror #8, who pokes holes in the circumstantial evidence and the statements from the eyewitnesses.
Lumet keeps things tense, sweaty, suspenseful and entertaining despite the contrived story line, that's rigged in promoting its agenda: that you can't convict if there's a reasonable doubt, that one's personal prejudices have no place on the jury and that evidence and eyewitness claims must be looked at carefully if this democratic process is to work as it was designed.
The excellent performances by
the entire talented cast make this one a solid and impactful drama.
Fonda, in a subdued performance, is convincing as the sincere do-gooder;
Martin Balsam is fine as the
fair-minded likable jury foreman; E.G. Marshall, Ed Begley, Sr., Jack
Warden, and Lee
J. Cobb give superb
performances as those promoting a guilty verdict, for various reasons;
while Jack Klugman, Joseph Sweeney, John Fiedler, Ed Binns, George Voskovec, and Robert Webber are believable characters, as those who in
the course of re-examing the evidence show a willingness to keep an
Things conclude a bit too pat
for me to say that it's a brilliant pic, but it was nevertheless
surprisingly realistic (even if it was unconvincing in detail, as the
case for the prosecutor so conveniently and easily comes apart) and
entertaining. Lumet's capable
tight direction is welcomed here, and is without some of his mishaps he
showed in many of his later long list of films that missed the mark
because of his slackness.
REVIEWED ON 5/12/2011 GRADE: B
Dennis Schwartz: "Ozus' World Movie Reviews"
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