Tuesday, July 04, 2006


Happy Fourth of July!

Yup, my favorite holiday besides Halloween -- not only because of the potential for blowing stuff up, which is always fun, but because it's a chance to celebrate our independence, the sacrifices made by the few for the many, and hope for the future.

Enjoy the holiday, folks.

And now on to Find Me Guilty. Aw, c'mon! You knew I wouldn't get away from it for long!

I could actually do two reviews on this flick -- one on the movie itself, and one on Vin Diesel's portrayal of the infamous character of Jackie D. I'll endeavor to do both in one, but it'll be a great sacrifice on my part. Heh.

First, the movie itself.

I want to admit something pitiful. I had NO IDEA how this trial ended. Yes, I know. I'm a child of the eighties. It's inexcusable. But I lived in the country on a farm ten miles away from a town of around 800 people. The New York City mob trials weren't exactly a top priority. I was vaguely aware of them happening, but I had no clue how they ended.

Thus, I felt a sense of anticipation that many people watching this flick probably didn't. I didn't have a CLUE how all of the dramatics would turn out. Heh.

Anyway, this is not your average flick. If you're looking for a straight up comedy, there are too many serious moments. If you're looking for a straight up drama, there are too many comedic moments. If you're looking for a tight courtroom thriller...well, you might be closer to the money, but while probably 90% of this movie takes place in a courtroom, it's not really about the trial so much as about the man defending himself. And I'm not sure the word "thrilling" applies, though "fascinating" certainly does.

Judge: It's said that a man who represents himself has a fool for a client.
Jackie D: Is that true?
Judge: Sometimes, yes.
Jackie D: That means sometimes it isn't, right?
Judge: *rueful grin* I guess so.

And that is the plot of the movie, in a nutshell. In a lot of ways, this flick is about the wild card in the deck, the one non-fool who represented himself. Because, while Jackie D has a certain naive belief that the people he loves and works with love him back, he is no fool.

Sure, he takes the trial as a joke at first. He knows why he's there. He knows why he was arrested in the first place and why he ended up with a 30-year sentence for a 10-year crime. But he ain't makin no deals. Jackie D don't sell out.

And he never does, through the whole flick.

And before our very eyes, he changes from a wise guy to a man who can work a witness as well as any lawyer. He's perceptive, and he has the benefit of knowing what actually happened, rather than what his client told him happened. He learns when he can get away with a little buffoonery and when he needs to rein himself in, be respectful, be calm. He ignores the grumbling of his fellow defendants, of the other defense attorneys, the prosecutor's antics. He ignores all of that and focuses on the one thing that's truly important in any trial: sowing seeds of doubt.

See, he realizes what lawyers and judges continually say but always seem to forget. Beyond a shadow of a doubt. It's fairly easy to suggest conspiracy, but Jackie D realizes that, if you actually know the facts, it's easier still to instill doubt in that conspiracy.

I think he says it best when he shows a picture of him and his buddies as kids and says that, if the RICO laws existed back then, they'd have probably been hauled in on a count of conspiracy to buy a milk shake. I dunno about you, but that really struck me. It was brilliant in its sheer, simple truth.

But that's this movie. It's not about the RICO laws. It's not about the other 27 defendants. It's about Jackie D and how he's not trying to pull his own chestnuts out of the fire. His nuts are already roasting. No matter what happens in the trial, he's going back to jail anyway. He's trying to do what Jackie D always did, what earned him the love of his family and friends -- whether they always showed it or not. He's trying to get everyone else off on a technicality.

Excellent flick.

And now, on to Vin Diesel's acting.

I admit freely that I adore the man. If it hadn't been for him, Riddick would have never made it past Pitch Black. He embodied the character, made it his own, made it incredible and shiver-worthy.

He does the same with Jackie D. I never saw the man, never saw any news coverage of him. I don't know what he looked like or how he behaved or any such thing. But Vin Diesel made Jackie D come alive for me. I believed him. I understood him, wanted him to succeed, no matter what his definition of success was.

I mean, who do you really root for in this case? The goombas? A bunch of wise guys completely capable of killing your mother for even half a reason? Or the prosecutor, who just wants to make a name for himself as having never lost a case, especially one that set a record for length and would probably be known nationwide as setting a precedent by which all other mob trials would be measured?

Or Jackie D himself?

Thanks to Mr. Diesel, heh, I rooted for Jackie D. There are a few times when his facial expressions, his eyes, had me so rooted in the moment that I couldn't look away. I believed him. I believed that he was Jackie D.

Excellent acting.

So, in short -- yeah, I know, too late -- I'd have to say that this flick probably isn't for everyone, but I do think that anyone could enjoy it. It's not action-packed. It's not continually hilarious. It's not continually gripping drama. But it's good. It's an excellent character study.

And it's Vin Diesel with hair!


At 8:24 AM, Blogger Joely Sue Burkhart said...

Sounds like you had a great holiday. :-) Hope the poison ivy is better!!!

At 11:27 AM, Blogger GutterBall said...

I did indeed, Sis! I hadn't planned on going to see the fireworks display since I can see most of it (except the ground display) from my house, but at the last minute, I just couldn't resist. So, I hopped into my car and drove over to the bridge over Broadway Street. They've installed a walkway over the bridge alongside the road, and I figured to have an excellent view from there.

Apparently, like 100 other people had the same thought. *sigh* But it was still a good show. Lasted nicely long. I got eaten alive by mosquitoes, but that's nothing new, and they don't seem to have left any marks, strangely enough.


Anyway, the poison ivy is all but gone. I still itch a little on my neck, but nothing like before, and the visible signs are practically gone. And I'm done with the steroids as of yesterday, so WOOT!

Of course, if I relapse tomorrow, I will be justifiably pissed.



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