Find Me Guilty

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Review #67 of 365
Film: Find Me Guilty [R] 125 minutes
WIP: $11.25
When 1st Seen: 18 March 2006
Where Viewed: Metropolitan Metrolux 14, Loveland, CO
Time: 6:30 p.m.
Review Dedicated to: Andy and Erik L. of Marshfield, WI


With an innocuous title and no memorable marketing campaign (because I do not recall seeing anything out there in advance: coming soon posters on walls?, big stand-up cutouts with flashing lights in lobbies?, pop-up ads on movie sites?, etc.?), most people may not even realize this film exists. Even with a designed-to-bring-in-the-15-22-year-old-males marquee star Vin ‘Fast and Furious / xXx’ Diesel as the start of the show, this film is likely to see dismal box office dollars. Some word of mouth may build buzz for the film, which may help. I will join the fray for this really is a gem of a film. Directed by multiple Oscar® nominee, Sidney Lumet, Find Me Guilty is based on the true story of what, at the time, was America’s longest running criminal court room trial in history. The actual case, according to the New York Law Journal, was U.S. v. Accetturo, and “…involved 20 defendants and as many attorneys, four prosecutors, more than 750 evidence exhibits and 40,000 pages of transcripts.” The screenwriters, of course, had to boil the more than 22 months of time down to 125 minutes of what I presume they hoped would be entertainment for the movie audiences. Probably it is difficult to imagine how such a thing could be entertaining especially when you learn that this trial was 20 alleged mobsters being tried under the RICO (Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations) Act—which is not nearly so juicy as a murder trial etc. Actually, honestly, this would have been one big snooze fest, in fact, were it not for the fact that the writers took the story from the point of view of one particularly colorful character, that of Giacomo ‘Jackie D.’ DiNorscio played by a 35-lb. heavier, scalp age spots and coiffed, Vin Diesel (more on that later). Utilizing actual courtroom dialog and hours of phone interviews with the real Jackie DiNorscio, the credited writers T.J. Mancini, Robert J. McCrea , and Sidney Lumet pieced together a contiguous story of Jackie’s life from the time that his smarmy, drug-addicted cousin Tony Compagna (Raúl Esparza) attempted to kill him to the end of the criminal trial brought against the alleged mob family to which Jackie was connected. Because of Jackie’s larger than life courtroom persona—he fired his lawyer and represented himself—the film works. Some viewers may worry that the entire film does little more than humanize these alleged mobsters, especially Jackie, despite some alleged evidence that they were among the most serious criminal elements in the history of New Jersey. That part didn’t bother me for it is a fact of movies that we often go and find ourselves rooting for the success of the criminal elements—recall Ocean’s Eleven, for example, or were you the only one in the audience who wanted to see George Clooney and Brad Pitt arrested and behind bars? Movies do do this to us. And, probably, they should, because, after all, one of the points of going to the movies is to live vicariously through others or to see sides of things we would never hope to actually see in our own lives. Movies are supposed to entertain, challenge our mindsets, cause us to think, and help us have fun. They are to be a legal form of escape from our own reality. I much prefer people use them to escape than so many other methods of choice. In any case, Jackie and other factors turn a dry RICO act prosecution into an entertaining experience, and that is the point of a movie. That may not, however, have been the point of the real trial—but I’ll leave those concerns to those that have to worry about the sanctity of the New Jersey courtrooms.

In effect, then, the film represents the life-story of Jackie DiNorscio as we learn much about him and his life from his childhood to fatherhood during the course of the trial and the scenes outside. We learn he has a daughter and a lovely wife powerfully portrayed by Annabella Sciorra, his previously mentioned cousin Tony who flips and testifies for the government, and a tense relationship with his mother. His father, meanwhile, attends court often to support his son. We learn he is intensely loyal to his extended family of alleged criminal guys to the point of declining numerous offers to testify against them for reduced sentencing for himself. And, finally, we learn that for all of his many failings, he does have a real heart. Whether that even begins to minimize his huge list of shortcomings and illegal dealings is up to anyone who would judge him. Vin Diesel who by my research seems to be in his late 30s and usually has been known for his roles as super action heroes such as Richard B. Riddick, Xander Cage, and Dominic Toretto from Pitch Black, xXx, and The Fast and the Furious respectively, has to be one of the most unlikely choices to play this role. More power to the guy! He was amazing. In fact, honestly, had I never seen him before, I doubt I would have even realized that he wasn’t 50 years old. The cool thing about his portrayal is that he brings a child-like innocence to the character that blends with and softens his tough guy physique. I mean, he’s a big guy. In real life, before acting, he was a NYC bouncer. As Jackie, he’s a big guy with a few spare pounds that seem to stick to us with greater voracity as we age for some reason, so he comes across in the courtroom, at times, like a St. Bernard puppy with a heart of gold. I was extremely impressed with Mr. Diesel’s performance. He was outstanding. Honestly, I think it is premature to start talking about next year’s race for the Academy Awards®, but were this early December, I have a feeling there would be a lot of buzz over this role. Hopefully, it will stick in people’s minds for the next eight months or so. I was also very impressed by the job that Peter Dinklage did portraying the lead counsel for the entire group of defendants, and Ron Silver was great as Judge Finestein. Linus (‘evil guy in The Forgotten’) Roache, meanwhile, took the role of the prosecuting attorney, Sean Kierney, and executed perfectly his early arrogant, never-lost-a-case, later turned upside by Jackie DiNorscio’s courtroom antics attitude. Indeed, he interplay between Diesel / Silver / and Roache really made this film work.

While certainly not the usual fare for fans of Vin Diesel, and certainly not the powerful courtroom drama of A Few Good Men or A Time to Kill, and certainly not in quite the same class as Sidney Lumet’s previous Academy Award worthy nominees as 12 Angry Men, Dog Day Afternoon, Network, or The Verdict, still, Find Me Guilty is very good film in the courtroom dramedy genre.

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