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At-A-Glance Film Reviews

The Chamber (1996)



Reviews and Comments

The least satisfying John Grisham adaptation to date, this legal thriller is irrevocably damaged by Chris O'Donnell, who is thoroughly unconvincing and uninteresting as a lawyer. He brings a naive enthusiasm to the role, a necessary but insufficent quality it needs. The story's synopsis -- a young lawyer handles the last appeal of his own racist grandfather, on death row for blowing up a couple of kids -- is more interesting than its execution and contains some far-fetched portrayals of his relationship with some of the other prisoners. Faye Dunaway is good, but her role is small. The film's greatest saving grace is Gene Hackman, who plays the death row inmate. We've seen Hackman play evil incarnate before, but here he does it in a deliciously nasty manner, and as if that weren't enough, he actually develops into a full-fledged character as the film progresses. As stated before, his relationship with some of the other inmates is too unbelievable to accept, but the other facets of his characterization are strong and moving. It's a pity he's sunk in a mediocre film.