Thursday Movie Picks #1 – Legal Thrillers

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Welcome back to Thursday Movie Picks series hosted by Wandering through the Shelves! I was on a year-long hiatus from this series last year, but I return as immediately as 2017 begins. Should anyone be interested in joining in, feel free to visit the main page here, where the schedule and rules are.
The theme for the first week of 2017 is: Legal Thrillers. I am not a fan of such kind of films, seriously; it often contains most sophisticated dialogues and specific terms that always got me cringed. My personal repertoire for legal thriller films is limited, but there are some wild aces that I personally like.

01. Primal Fear (1996)
Richard Gere & Edward Norton – Primal Fear (1996)
I think Primal Fear represents the term ‘legal thriller’ at ground level. It’s thrilling and full of twist and turn from the very beginning. A public-eyed defense attorney is struggling to prove that an altar boy is innocent from a murder charge. Primal Fear is deceptive at every level and has a penchant to moral ambiguity most of the time. The ending, though, is a traumatizing one, locking down its status as one of the finest legal thrillers (or simply thriller).
02. Erin Brokovich (2000)
Julia Roberts – Erin Brokovich (2000)
This based-on-a-real-event courtroom drama is poignant at multiple levels. Erin Brokovich is a moving tale of grass-root investigation to tackle down a huge company abuse that has been hidden for so long. Steven Soderbergh’s direction is compelling as usual and Julia Roberts gives a stellar performance as a single mother turns a national hero.
03. Michael Clayton (2007)
George Clooney – Michael Clayton (2007)
Tony Gilroy’s legal thriller is sharply scripted. Following a desperate time of the titular “fixer” to save his ass and confront Oscar-winning Tilda Swinton, Michael Clayton has all the tension and energy to make this behind-the-court thriller a powerhouse. This film works at similar area as Erin Brokovich about an “evil corps.” but this one, instead of moving, is suspenseful at best.

Afterwords: While legal thriller isn’t a specific theme I would pick at a glance, I believe that there are more fascinating films of the theme that I have missed due to my ignorance to this.

12 thoughts on “Thursday Movie Picks #1 – Legal Thrillers

  1. Hello Paskalis! I haven’t seen Erin Brokovich but totally agree w/ the other two picks. Primal Fear is excellent, featuring a freakishly scary performance from Ed Norton.

    1. Erin Brokovich granted Julia Roberts an Oscar, so yeah, I recommend it.
      Can’t agree more about Ed Norton’s performance in Primal Fear. So young, so raw, and he’s not even been in Fight Club!

  2. Good choices and we have a match! I’m not much for Roberts in dramas, comedies yes but the heavier stuff seems to drain her energy. However she’s okay in Erin Brockovich even though Albert Finney is better as her boss.
    I liked but didn’t love Michael Clayton. It was fine but once was enough.
    Primal Fear which is our match was the first one I thought of and such a beautifully acted film by everyone and the direction is strong as well.
    Now this is a genre that I love so picking three was easy. Can’t say that every week but I’d recommend my other two highly.
    Primal Fear (1996)-Martin Vail (Richard Gere) a big time Chicago attorney who loves the spotlight and isn’t overburdened with scruples takes on pro bono, for both the challenge and the publicity, the seemingly unwinnable case of angel faced choir boy Aaron Stampler (Edward Norton) accused of viciously slaying a much loved priest. The case leads him down many dark corridors and ultimately to a crisis of conscience. Expertly acted by a top flight cast, Laura Linney, Frances McDormand, Andre Braugher and Alfre Woodard (great fun as a tippling no nonsense judge) among many others, but the standouts are top liner Gere and Norton who is simply astonishing in his screen bow.
    Suspect (1987)-An esteemed judge commits suicide shortly after giving his secretary a package. The next morning the secretary is found dead in the Potomac with her throat cut and almost immediately a mute homeless man (Liam Neeson) found with the dead woman’s wallet is arrested for the crime. His case is assigned to public defender Kathleen Riley (Cher) and it seems a straightforward case. Once the jury is empaneled though one of the jurors, lobbyist Eddie Sanger (Dennis Quaid) notices some inconsistences in the case and surreptitiously tries to pass his suspicions to Kathleen without subverting the trial. They secretly team up when those suspicions grow darker and both find their lives threatened. A trifle farfetched but suspenseful legal thriller with good performances, cast and direction. Excellent opening credits set the mood of the film up well.
    Witness for the Prosecution (1957)-In London when wealthy widow Emily French is found bludgeoned to death suspicion falls on struggling inventor Leonard Vole (Tyrone Power in his last film), a somewhat shiftless acquaintance of hers. He turns to well respected but thorny barrister Sir Wilfrid Robarts (Charles Laughton) to take the case. Fresh out of hospital and attended by a constantly flummoxed nurse Miss Plimsoll (Elsa Lanchester-Laughton’s real life wife) Robarts at first declines but after an entreaty by Vole’s wife Christine (a scene stealing Marlene Dietrich) he takes up the case which is loaded with twists and turns aplenty. Splendid adaptation of Agatha Christie’s classic story enacted by a cast that couldn’t be better and superbly directed by Billy Wilder.

    1. Shoot! Suspect seems legit. But I don’t know if I’m going to watch it anytime soon. Witness for the Prosecution gets most of my attention now. Really hope it will get a remake treatment.

  3. I’ve seen all 3 but I need to revisit Primal Fear because it has been a while. Erin Brokovich is a good flick with solid acting and Michael Clayton I have seen but can’t remember much. I need to revisit this one and Primal

  4. Seen both of your latter two picks, Erin a lot more recently than Michael Clayton (which needs revisit as it’s been years since I’ve seen it)

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