Trial by Jury (1994) starring Joanne Whalley-Kilmer, Armand Assante, Gabriel Byrne, & William Hurt
For one juror, the question of guilt or innocence is a matter of life or death… her own. -Tag line
For those who’ve seen The Juror (see below), this film (which was released first) will seem very familiar! However, this story focuses more on the trial, rather than what happens outside the courtroom. Both individuals are (oddly) happy to appear for jury duty, as many viewers have chuckled at. The son here is younger and there is a supportive grandfather character (who lives upstate on a small farm). The fathers (ex-husbands to the protagonists) are barely mentioned; they’re absent from the daily lives of the sons. Both moms must survive under tremendous pressures and eventually take actions into their own hands (rather than relying on the authorities).
In NYC, Valerie Alston (Whalley-Kilmer) is a single mom/owner of a vintage clothing store called to participate in the jury of the trial of mobster Rusty Pirone (Assante). Just before the trail begins, the key witness for the prosecution is executed, along w/ the four police officers who were protecting him. The lead prosecutor, Daniel Graham (Byrne), is on a mission to get Pirone, and also the media’s attention. An alcoholic ex-cop, Tommy Vesey (Hurt), threatens to hurt Valerie’s son unless she says “not guilty.”
I enjoyed the parts w/ Byrne and his team of eager/ambitious prosecutors. Assante made a smooth/compelling villain (w/ a love of classic films and everything old-fashioned). Playing against type, freelance baddies Hurt (w/ waves in his blonde hair) and Kathleen Quinlan share a dysfunctional dynamic. The third act of the story is (obviously) inspired by the noir genre. I wasn’t a fan of the editing; this movie could’ve been shorter and more tightly put together.
You will feel Gabriel Byrne’s frustration as he tries to catch the mob boss and and work within the law only to have the legal system perverted by the influence of that mob. You will see how his character… could easily have gone in that direction.
-Excerpt from IMDB review
The Juror (1996) starring Demi Moore, Alec Baldwin, Joseph Gordon-Leavitt, James Gandolfini, & Anne Heche
In upstate NY, Annie Laird (Moore) is a sculptor (clerk by day) raising a smart/observant 13 y.o. son, Oliver (Gordon-Leavitt) on her own. Annie is cautious, responsible, and busy (though doesn’t mind going to jury duty). She even comments to Oliver: “I need some excitement in my life!” Her closest friend is a carefree/single doctor, Juliet (Heche), who also shares a great rapport w/ Oliver. I liked the female friendship element in this story, thought the women seemed like opposites. Annie is one of the jurors chosen for the trial of Louie Boffano, who is accused of the murders of a rival mob family (incl. a 10 y.o. boy). A mysterious man dressed in black (Baldwin) bugs Annie’s (eclectic-looking) farmhouse; his friend/colleague Eddie (Gandolfini) keeps a lookout.
The next day at a gallery in NYC, Annie receives a check for $12,000, as she has finally sold some of her work. Outside this gallery, a man introduces himself to Annie as “Mark”- the art dealer who purchased the sculptures. He humbly asks her to go have coffee; they have a chat re: art vs. business (which I liked). When Mark explains that “art is used as a kind of currency” in Japan, Annie becomes indignant, saying: “I don’t want my work treated as currency!” Some critics/viewers said this was naive of Annie; after all, she is trying to transition to becoming an artist full-time. Annie decides to go out on a date with Mark, encouraged by Juliet, who thinks her friend is too reserved. Well, Mark (who had some serious issues- we will learn) reveals his true intent for getting close to Annie- she must declare that Boffano is “not guilty.”
To keep the viewer guessing, Baldwin’s face is kept mostly in shadow during the early scenes. There is a good amount of tension in this film, which keeps the viewer’s attention. There are some implausible moments and the editing could’ve been tighter. I thought Gandolfini did an esp. fine job; he was probably the most “normal” character (though still a baddie) in the movie. There are twists and turns, so you won’t be bored. I liked the (pivotal/intense) action scene between Baldwin and several mobsters. Like many viewers, I didn’t see the point in taking the story to Guatemala. We also never learn much re: Dr. Boone (Matt Craven)- is he Annie’s ex/Oliver’s father or just an old (platonic) pal? The final face-off is exciting, but also rather cliched (as seen in other action movies).
The role she [Demi Moore] plays here is, in a sense, the feminine counterpart of many Harrison Ford roles, the ordinary person elevated to heroic action by compelling circumstances.
Alec Baldwin… He fills the screen with his presence like something you can’t get rid of. He is so compelling you want to push him away or just give up. And he is charming-evil, but charming.
-Excerpt from IMDB review