Music Box Review

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Ann Talbot (Lange) is a succesful lawyer who takes it upon herself to defend her father (Mueller-Stahl) against preposterous claims that he was a nazi war criminal during the war. But is daddy as innocent as his little girl at first assumes?


Following on from their contentiously received Betrayed, Costa-Gavras and screenwriter Joe Eszterhas here re-examine love, loyalties and betrayal to considerably sharper effect. Lange is the American Dream lawyer daughter of a good father, elderly immigrant Mike Laszlo (the first-rate Mueller-Stahl). Suddenly, unbelievably, he is accused of war crimes during the Nazi occupation of his native Hungary and his outraged daughter undertakes the old man's defence herself. It proves an emotional trek, from furious indignation to fearful doubt as the evidence mounts against him and she is gradually forced to wonder just who this man she knows only as her father really is. The courtroom scenes effectively build the growing did-he-didn't-he tension, with the alleged atrocities skilfully if painfully evoked through the testimony of various witnesses rather than through the customary flashback scenes. Oscar-nominated Lange is quite superb throughout, conveying the tough criminal lawyer still capable of shocking below-the-belt tactics while also a daughter shaken to her core, all delivered with remarkable authority and a complete absence of histrionics. If the side is let down at all, as it occasionally is by an overblown score, some artificially imposed Dramatic Atmosphere and a fuzzy conspiracy sub-plot, this is still one of the performances of the year.

A well-spun courtroom drama given extra depth by it's first-class witness testimonies and Lange's torn-in-two daughter.