5.7/10
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23 user 19 critic

Criminal Law (1988)

A lawyer defends a killer, but soon after he wins, he finds out that the killer is guilty.

Director:

Martin Campbell

Writer:

Mark Kasdan
Reviews
1 win. See more awards »

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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
Gary Oldman ... Ben Chase
Kevin Bacon ... Martin Thiel
Tess Harper ... Det. Stillwell
Karen Young ... Ellen Faulkner
Joe Don Baker ... Det. Mesel
Sean McCann ... Jacob Fischer
Ron Lea ... Gary Hull
Michael Sinelnikoff ... Prof. Clemens
Karen Woolridge Karen Woolridge ... Claudia Curwen (as Karen Wooldridge)
Ali Giron ... Isabel Fuertes
Rob Roy Rob Roy ... Ethan Parks
Terrence Labrosse Terrence Labrosse ... Judge (as Terrence La Brosse)
Barbara Jones Barbara Jones ... Sandra Massina (as Barbara Ann Jones)
Jeannie Walker Jeannie Walker ... Mrs. Monroe
Tyrone Benskin ... Jackson
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Storyline

A rising young attorney successfully defends a man accused of murder, only to have the same type of murder then happen again. Right away the previously defended man hires the attorney again, and although the attorney is quite certain that he is the killer, he agrees to again defend him... much to the consternation of his friends. However, he explains that by being his attorney he will be better able to catch the man in a mistake... and on this the rest of the film develops, with the killer playing a cat and mouse game with the attorney until, at last, they both must recognize that they are not all that different. Written by BOB STEBBINS <stebinsbob@aol.com>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Taglines:

A killer is back on the streets. The only one who can stop him is the lawyer who set him free. See more »

Genres:

Crime | Thriller

Certificate:

R | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

View content advisory »
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Details

Country:

USA

Language:

English

Release Date:

28 April 1989 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Der Frauenmörder See more »

Filming Locations:

Québec, Canada See more »

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Box Office

Opening Weekend USA:

$2,636,091, 30 April 1989

Gross USA:

$9,974,446

Cumulative Worldwide Gross:

$9,974,446
See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

Dolby

Color:

Color

Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
See full technical specs »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

The film's opening prologue cites a famous quotation from the German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche. The quote reads: "Whoever fights monsters should see to it that in the process he does not become a monster. And when you look long into an abyss, the abyss also looks into you." See more »

Goofs

When the defense attorney places the glass of water on the jury box rail for the second time, it is gone in the next view of where it had been placed. See more »

Quotes

Martin Thiel: I love the rain... it washes everything away... makes it clean.
See more »

Connections

Referenced in Resident Alien (1990) See more »

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User Reviews

 
The imperfections of law examined
29 December 2007 | by blanche-2See all my reviews

In 1988's Criminal Law, Gary Oldman plays Ben Chase, an attorney who defends a man, Martin Thiel (Kevin Bacon) accused of a particularly vicious murder. With clever lawyering, he gets Thiel off, only to realize shortly afterward that Thiel is guilty and out there killing again. This time, though, Thiel is playing a mind game with Chase and wants to retain him when suspicion falls on him for a second murder that Ben knows he committed. Ben wants to right the wrong of the first "not guilty" plea so he agrees to work as Thiel's attorney, hoping for inside information that will convict the man.

This is very interesting premise, though the various themes get lost in an uneven script that tries to do too much. The focus actually becomes the performances of Oldman and Bacon - Oldman giving a very emotional performance and Bacon a very cold one. Posts here have pronounced Oldman as hammy - hammy to me is when a performance is bigger than the emotions underneath so that the performance seems phony. Here, the character of Ben seemed to be truly overwrought, and the emotions came from a real place. Oldman at any rate is an interesting actor, and this material in the hands of a lesser one would have made it dismissible. As it is, the film survives on the basis of the work of the two actors.

Honing in on one theme rather than several would have helped "Criminal Law." It tries to tackle psychosis, legal technicalities, the law versus justice, attorney-client privilege, mystery and romance in one script. When it comes out of the Mixmaster, it's all pretty vague.


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