Find Me Guilty (2006), or Diesel, Diesel, Diesel…

23 06 2009

If anybody has stuck with me these past 6 months, they will know that at the beginning of this whole year-long voyage, I stumbled across a few potholes along the way, trying to find something juicy, ripe, and tasty for you delightful people. One of the biggest potholes I found was the deliriously lopsided Babylon A.D., a film with so much wasted potential that it makes Lost In La Mancha look like The Man Who Killed Don Quixote!!! Part of the reason that movie didn’t work was because of a man who has burned me one too many times with today’s film. His name is Vin Diesel, and while I think he’s damn cool as a man, he has taken too many dollars from me undeservingly, and I can no longer abide by it. He is officially going on Cinematronica’s Least Wanted List. He is the second man to grace it so far. At the moment, the list looks like this;

1. Nicolas Cage!!!

2.Vin Diesel!!

When more people are added, I will be sure to update the list according to their loathsomeness. Until then, let me get back on track by saying that Find Me Guilty, directed by Sidney Lumet (!!!!!), is spectacularly dull, and I could have gone another lifetime or two without seeing another Italian mobster goombah comedy. But here we are, and fortunately I have reached my maximum recommended dosage of that stuff for a few weeks, so no more wacky crime family antics for a while!!!

This is based on the true story of the biggest and most tedious Mob trials in history. It all begins with a huge RICO trial, wherein a number of defendants are tried at once. The government has decided to put a number of high-ranking Mafia family members in the courtroom to try and intimidate them. They have a lot of evidence, and a lot of testimony, but the one person who could REALLY make the difference, a low-level moron named Jackie DiNorscio who is also on trial, refuses to talk because he thinks his Mafia brethren are his friends (his cousin actually shoots him 4 times before his arrest(!!!) but he refuses to rat anyone out). That’s not what elongates the trial though. What makes this shindig go on so long is the fact that Mr. DiNorscio also decides to take it upon himself to defend himself. This in itself becomes a problem for the prosecution because the guy is so lovable and dumb that the jury starts to fall for his line of platitudes and Mafioso crap. Can the prosecution save this case before Jackie “Idiot Extraordinaire” DiNorscio gets all these dangerous mob men off the hook?

The film is told in a more jovial format, as you can clearly see from the trailer above, but I’m highly dubious. Why? Because while watching the movie, you clearly notice that it is behind DiNorscio all the way. We’re rallying behind a fairly big drug dealer? A drug dealer that, by staying silent, is keeping other, more influential Mafia family members out of prison? HUH?!?! I don’t get it. The prosecution is shown to be smug, certainly, but they’re the good guys!!! They end up looking like a bunch of dumb white dweebs! What is the moral to all this? It’s one thing to have amoral characters, or characters that do evil things permeate a work of art, but what does one do when one is supposed to root for these evil-doers? Imagine the TV show Dexter, only instead of killing serial killers, he kills grown, down-on-their-luck men. I can see the headlines now: Dexter canceled after 1 episode! America sees new level of depravity on television! I know I’m thinking too much about it, but I couldn’t really laugh too much when I realized that DiNorscio is unwittingly doing a lot of harm to a lot of people by dicking around in court with all his “friends”.

And Vin Diesel just looks ridiculous. After years of patenting the bald look and keeping his skull as smooth as a Mr. Freeze’s ass cheeks, he sports a hairpiece in this role that is nothing short of revolting. It looks like John Gotti’s hair escaped from prison and is holding Diesel’s head hostage. His performance is anything but lovable, I am also sad to say. I wanted to shake him heartily on a number of occasions for just being such a douche. DiNorscio was a big lug, but you can’t as an audience member let him slide so easily. Sure, Lenny from Of Mice And Men was a swell guy, but when he starts petting chicks to death you gotta put him down. And I just can’t reconcile the fact that, while there are some HILARIOUS Italian antics going on, including the whimsical “Bring the ancient Mafioso into the courtroom, bed and all!” scene, this is still some serious stuff that isn’t really given enough gravity considering how it was based on a true story.

Sidney Lumet directs, as I said, but I can’t see much of his previous work here. I see a little of his spark from Serpico, in the form of a young man taking on a system bigger than himself, but that was for justice and this is so criminals can go free. I respect Lumet immensely, and I think that he has some potential to still make something great, but this just isn’t it. While I respect his devotion to the rehearsal, I feel like this was TOO rehearsed. It felt too dreary, too much like everyone is going through the motions. I wanted some real verve, some involved shots, or at least the illusion of inclusion, the feeling that we’re sitting there in the courtroom. But I just felt like standing up after all this hoopla! Thanks! I’ll be here all week!

Lumet is still a great director in my opinion, but he lost his vision along the way in this one. Perhaps his use of big names finally came back to bite him in the ass when he took in an actor who isn’t much more than an action star to play in his dramady role. To be fair, Diesel isn’t a TERRIBLE actor; he just doesn’t sell it very well. He gives off the vibe of “this is my performance; take it or leave it, asshole!”, and that turns me off sometimes. If he can just commit himself more fully to a role, or at least et into the directing chair where he can immerse himself that way, then I think he could go incredibly far. But until then, we only have movies like this as an indicator of his skill, so therefore I must find him guilty. Guilty of Voluntary Diesel-ing. I sentence him and his movie by giving them both 4 1/2 Least Wanted Lists out of 10! This review is adjourned.

Come back tomorrow, where, for my PSA, I take on an all-time American classic! No, not A Streetcar Named Desire! I’m talking about Road House! See you there!

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