…and justice for all. (1979)

(On Cable TV, July 2017) For a movie that’s nearly forty years old, And Justice for All still works remarkably well. It’s recognizably from the late seventies, but it tackles evergreen notions of idealism versus cynicism, as exemplified by an impetuous lawyer (Al Pacino, in a career-establishing performance) stuck between his ideals and the realities of the judicial system. It’s very darkly humorous (call it a courtroom drama with a body count) but it doesn’t make the mistake of being nihilistic: throughout, we can cheer for our protagonist as obstacles pop up. Pacino is terrific, director Norman Jewison keeps everything at a slow boil, old-school veteran John Forsythe makes for a loathsome villain, Christine Lahti is good in her big-screen debut and Jeffrey Tambor also pops up as an unhinged lawyer. (Almost all of the characters are unhinged in their own way, but that’s the film.) While the script is riddled with contrivances and satirical moments, it’s that bigger-than-life quality that gives And Justice For All it peculiar charm and timeless appeal.

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