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Just Cause Review

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Well educated Southern black man Bobby Earl (Underwood), has spent eight years on death row after confessing to the horrible murder of a white girl. Harvard law professor Paul Armstrong (Connery) is persuaded by his wife (Capshaw) to reopen the case. Soon he discovers that Earl confessed under extreme duress, tangling with Tanny Brown (Fishburne), the arresting officer.

★★★★★

It sometimes seems that American lawyers spend less time on actual cases than on cranking out improbable best-sellers with legal jargon titles, prefabricated movie star roles and endings Perry Mason would have laughed out of court on a technicality. Just Cause, from a thick paperback by John Katzenbach, nurtures its single plot twist with such dedication that even the jury at the O.J. Simpson trial would see the truth after the first 15 minutes of evidence.

Connery, recovering some of his dignity lost in A Good Man In Africa, scratches his bald dome and tries to figure it out, but when revelations concerning Capshaw and imprisoned mass murderer Sullivan (Ed Harris) come thick and fast, he loses the plot and fumbles through a sub-Cape Fear menace-in-the-swamp finale. There is no reason this story couldn't have been inoffensively rushed out as a TV movie, but the big acting (Harris, as a poor man's Hannibal Lecter, is a hoot) and expensive production values just serve to make the basic plot dumbness more obvious.

Breaking the golden rule of thrillers - don't let the audience guess the ending from 15 minutes in - this just becomes largely pointless.

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