Just Cause (1995), or Not Bad, Sean Connery… But Not Good, Either

8 06 2009

Sean Connery graces this site again today in one of his more intriguing 90s films, Just Cause. Apparently, after jettisoning off Jupiter’s moon in Outland, Connery returns to Earth to become a law professor, where he is involved in even more drama. Just Cause is a movie with a lot of potential, but not enough dynamics. It’s a story told too flatly, too straight. There’s nothing amazing about it, and that’s the damn shame, because there could have been.

Let me explain. The story alone is the best part about this movie. Set in Musky Swamp Rat, Florida, or some town like that, it tells the story of a brutal rape and murder of a young white girl in 1986. After rounding up the possible suspects, the police coerce and bully a confession out of a black man who might have been innocent. After nearly a decade of losing legal battles, he is sentenced to go to death row for this crime he may not have even committed. Defiant still, however, the accused, named Blair, calls on a renowned professor of law, Paul Armstrong, to aid his case and help prove his innocence. Armstrong agrees, and falls into this steamy Southern mystery head-first. What he finds, though, is that nobody is who they say they are, and the facts he is given don’t add up. Something’s wrong in the steamy tropic terrain of Stank Hole, Florida, and it’s up to Paul Armstrong to set things right.

Okay, sounds good, right? Well, it is good. It’s just not amazing. Everything is told in such a linear train of thought and in such a dry, bland way, that I left feeling somewhat disappointed. There’s nothing WRONG with this picture, per se, but it was a pretty good concept that fell flat due to poor directing and a couple ham-handed performances.

Evocative issues like race, integrity, and the distinguishing of good and evil culminate in a script that is engaging and powerful. It can be read as a murder mystery about trust; who you can, who you can’t, and the reliability of the people we already rely upon. There are a lot of things I like about this script. The character of Blair is very multi-faceted, and he leaves a lot on the screen to think about by the end. Sullivan, a serial killer who may or may not have really committed the murder, is another well-formed character, a Hannibal Lecter meets Tyler Durden kind of creep that inhabits the movie and makes a shocking revelation at the end that is actually pretty ingenious.

But it’s not all fun and good cheer. A lazy Sean Connery strolls through the joint and acts like it’s his movie. Sure, he’s the star, but he doesn’t act like it. He is going through the motions in a very obvious way. He IS Sean Connery, and that goes a ways to mending the rift, but it’s still a mediocre performance. The direction, as I said, is incredibly weak. I could have done the damn direction, and the only time I’ve picked up a camera is to videotape my cat running around. It’s so damn banal!!! It’s so visually uninteresting, I would look away from the screen sometimes to just change up the color palette a bit. And Laurence Fishburne is incredibly annoying as the obnoxiously mean Sheriff. I hoped that at one point the movie would just lose this character and his vicious hatred of everything suspenseful. He ruined any hope of surprise for me, and I did not appreciate him Red Herring-ing all the way to the ends of Sticky Orifice, Florida.
So good, not great. Just Cause has that Perfect Storm of good and bad that together, creates a perfect middle rating in my book. If I could have given this film any advice, it would have been to ditch the big name actors, hire a big name director, and leave all this unpleasantness in the dust. But, alas, it was not to be. I give Just Cause 5 Mildew Craw, Floridas out of 10.

Tomorrow, I take a look at the glorious past of the New Hollywood with Bonnie and Clyde!

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One response

8 06 2009
Bren

Hey! I was planning our vacation to Sticky Orifice, Florida! I thought you would really like it. Well, hell. Now I’ll just have to find a different cesspool for us to visit…

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