Something about Find Me Guilty felt less than cinematic to me. I couldn't shake the feeling that we were watching an HBO movie. Not that that's a bad thing, but I was surprised in the end to find that it had a cinematic release.
It was interesting to see Vin Diesel in something that didn't have explosions in it every ten minutes, but I still don't see any acting awards in his future. He was likable enough as Jackie DiNorscio, the gangster with a heart, defending himself on a conspiracy charge in what would become the longest mafia trial in US history, and of course you want to see him beat the wrap.
But whether he's guilty of this charge or not, he is - by his own admission - guilty of many others. He's not a good guy, and we shouldn't be in his corner. As prosecuting attorney Sean Kierney says upon hearing one of the female jurors thinks Jakie is cute:
"Does she have any idea how much money these bastards cost her? If a hammer and a nail are used - her house, her daughter's apartment - every fucking thing is costing her more because of these 'cute' guys. She sees a truck carrying concrete? She's paying for it. Garbage being picked up at a restaurant? She's paying for it. She buys perfume from France, gloves from Italy? She's paying more because it came off a fucking boat! Not to mention that they fucking kill people from time to time!"A compelling argument. But wait, Kierney wants to put our guy in prison. So what do we do? Well, let's make him a weasely schmuck. I hate when movies do this. It's a short cut that bypasses character development altogether. And casting Linus Roache just seals the deal. It's less than I would have expected from Sidney Lumet.
Worth noting, though, is Peter Dinklage as Ben Klandis, one of the defense attorneys. Apart from his standing on a riser to speak to the jury - and even this is done without making a joke out of it - nothing is made of his stature. He plays the role as a guy who's a lawyer, not a dwarf who's a lawyer. I'd love to see him get more work of this kind.
I enjoyed this movie really for the history lesson more than anything else. I was definitely intrigued by how the whole thing played out, knowing nothing at all about the story. The biggest mob trial in history is won seemingly because one mob man chose to act as his own attorney, revealing a blue-collar character with skewed moral decency to the jury who just ate it up.
Vin Diesel was convincing as Jackie DiNoscio, and kept the entertainment level high. Steve was on to something, though, when he said the thing felt like a TV movie. It did, and, as we discussed after the movie, it balanced poorly it's comedy and it's drama. Linus Roach as the prosecuting attorney pointed out so many reasons why this mob group deserved to go to jail, and yet we were rooting for Jackie, so suave and funny and likable.
So, yeah, not a hit, not nearly a miss. Just somewhere in between.