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At-A-Glance Film Reviews

Just Cause (1995)



Reviews and Comments

This film's most painfully annoying, miserable, stupid embarrassment occurs right in the beginning, when we are introduced to the main character, Paul Armstrong (Sean Connery). He's in the middle of a ridiculously absurd debate on capital punishment. Armstrong's opponent makes some foolish, mean-spirited argument for capital punishment (all the wrong reasons for it, stated ineptly to boot), which Armstrong shoots down with an equally insidious rebuttal (for which he gains applause). If there's one thing worse than a movie being blatant propaganda for some silly political cause, it's a movie doing so incompetently. It would not surprise me to hear that the dialogue was written by some producer's fifth grade son, which he wrote as an oral report for an English or social studies class. Whether you're for or against capital punishment, the dialogue is insulting and laughable. It certainly didn't put me in a good frame of mind to watch and enjoy the rest of the movie, which is a good but not great variation on the modern day serial killer movie, borrowing heavily from The Silence of the Lambs.

A killer is loose, and Paul Armstrong must enlist the aid of another killer on death row to track him down. It's more complicated than that, but I don't want to give too much away. Some racial tension is thrown in, to help rile up the audience. Ed Harris plays the death row inmate, with one of the creepiest, unnerving, powerfully evil performances I have ever seen in all my movie-going experience. (Though, admittedly, much of his performance was augmented with lightning and atmosphere.) Prior to Just Cause, I had seen Harris excel as leading men but had not realized his amazing potential for more sinister roles. His fantastic performance somewhat compensates for the inane capital punishment debate, leaving the rest of the movie to stand on its own. And it's only just ok. Interesting story, but riddled with inconsistencies. Intriguing mystery, but overly gruesome. Promising build to an unimaginative climax. If you like the stars or serial killer movies, give it a whirl; otherwise, you can probably do better.