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...And Justice for AllUSA 1979
Directed by Norman Jewison
Running time 120 minutes
Although too tonally uneven, particularly in the first half, to have its desired effect, ...And Justice for All, symptomatic of the late '70s taste for social issue themes, features one of Al Pacino’s peak period performances (nominated for the Best Actor Oscar he lost to Dustin Hoffman for another “issue” film, Kramer vs Kramer)
Pacino plays Arthur Kirkland, an idealistic defense lawyer who is struggling to maintain his commitment to his vocation. Barry Levinson and Valerie Curtin’s script weaves together a tableau of incidents to illustrate the fallen state of the legal system – a case of wrongful imprisonment supplies one of the narrative threads, one of Arthur’s partner’s has a nervous breakdown after getting a murderer freed, a judge (Jack Warden) plays with various ways to commit suicide, whilst Arthur himself ends up defending an arrogant, hard-line judge (John Forsythe), accused of rape, having been blackmailed into taking the case by the threat of being debarred for unethical behavior. Periodically he pops to a nursing home to visit his Alzheimer’s-afflicted Grandad (Lee Strasberg) who put him through law school and on the side has an affair with a lady member (Christine Lahti) of the ethics committee.
The film is well-enough put together and makes its point clearly about the cynical abandonment of any sense of justice or even humanity in the American legal system although like Pacino’s performance, a little too excessively so. This is one evident case where less would have been more. However if you like such things, Pacino’s histrionic outburst at film’s end is one of his most memorable.