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Trial By Jury Review

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★★★★★

Almost universally slammed by the critics on its American release, this courtroom thriller emerges this side of the Atlantic as something of underrated middle-order movie. Single-mother Whalley-Kilmer is a juror working on the trial of mobster Armand Assante, but this being America, and more importantly a thriller, she and her son are soon on the end of some hefty intimidation from the mob's leading thug, a crooked cop played by a bizarrely-cast William Hurt. Meanwhile, in court, frothy Gabriel Byrne turns up as the District Attorney loading the proceedings with lawyer theatrics, foaming at the mouth in his need to get Assante behind bars.

For all its evident silliness, this works as a celebration of classic 40s cinema, playing up the melodrama and letting the actors unashamedly overdo things. Mind you, you can't help but wonder about the wisdom of casting the Irish Byrne, Latin Assante and the normally discerning Hurt as native Brooklyners complete with treacle-heavy accents. Whalley-Kilmer, though, adds a certain vulnerability and sexiness to the leading role allowing her to stand out from this enviable cast of masculine thesps.

Naturally, things are a bit more violent than in those black-and-white days, including an offscreen, but obvious rape sequence that borders on the disturbing. But even this can't dent the atmosphere of frivolous enjoyment, and if you have forgotten the movie's daft convolutions by the time you get home, this laughable slice of courtroom hokum makes for great, compulsive fun.