Wednesday, 28 July 2010

No.46 : The Accused

I’m not a big fan of court room films, ‘Witness for the Prosecution’ notwithstanding. Like many sports films and any old ‘triumph against adversity’ gubbins the end is a foregone conclusion. There has been a slight renaissance with some sports movies like ‘Coach Carter’ and the ‘Bad News Bears’ remake where the big twist was that they lost but they also ‘win’ - but court room films don’t have that option. Either the bad guy gets banged up or he walks - no middle ground. Unless he walks and gets shot on the way out the court or he gets off on appeal off camera.

Yeah I know you’ve got the ‘Mockingbird’ defence and while that was a great film and the good guy lost at least it taught us innocent kids a bit about the realities of life.

Anyway ‘The Accused’ is a decent enough court room drama that is helped by only the last few minutes taking place in a court room. You still get the emotive speeches and pleas to the jury but at least you get a little bit of investigation along the way. Jodie Foster plays a trailer trash waitress, Sarah, who gets gang raped by three men on a pinball table while some jeering louts and a sensitive video game player look on.

After a pretty blow by blow account of the hospital forensic tests the three rapists get fingered and are put on trial. Fearing that her main witness was drunk and a bit slutty the DA, played by the woman out of ‘Top Gun’, plea bargains the rape charge down to reckless endangerment, much to the disgust of her client. Feeling a bit guilty herself Top Gun woman goes after the jeering mob in a hope of atoning for doing her job.

After a lucky break on the Pac-Man machine she traces the sensitive video games player who agrees to testify despite the pressure of his rapist friends. The trial is set and the lawyers have their show stopper speeches ready. Will the fragile waitress get the justice she craves or will the baying mob of louts walk free? It’s the first one!

I quite enjoyed ‘The Accused’ despite its obvious agenda and total lack of strong believable male characters. There’s no doubt that the case as presented was horrendous and brutal but the men were all such stereotype red necks and frat boys that it made the whole thing seem unbelievable. I’m pretty sure in the real case, on which the film was based, the drunken mob didn’t come up with catchy chants.

Foster was great as Sarah and really pulled off the tough and sexy yet fragile and vulnerable waitress. She rightly got an Oscar for her performance which must have been harrowing given the violent and humiliating subject matter. Top Gun woman was less good as the hard as nails, but has now learned a valuable lesson, DA.

I like the way the film showed various viewpoints of the unseen events before we saw the actual crime in the last half hour. I don’t know if this was a late addition as lots of the court room testimony later referred to was missing. It certainly made the film more real and had a lot more impact than another 30 minutes of court room drama.

The best scene for me was Sarah shopping for tapes when she encounters the most loathsome man you’ll ever see. Think of a male version of the landlady out of ‘Kingpin’ - certainly one worth losing your no claims bonus over.

This is the kind of file you can’t really enjoy. The grim subject matter and the foregoing conclusion rob it of any real thrill or drama and the scenes at the end where they’re all having a good laugh at the outcome don’t sit right. A worthy film definitely, but a watchable one? The jury’s out.

THE Tag Line : Accused of Being Grim & Predictable 62 %

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