'Find Me Guilty: Special Edition'
(Vin Diesel, Peter Dinklage, Linus Roache, Ron Silver, Annabella Sciorra, et al / DVD / R / (2006) 2019 / MVD Marquee Edition)
Overview: In the late 1980s, a low level gangster named Jackie DiNorscio defends himself in court in what became the longest criminal trial in American judicial history.
Blu-ray Verdict: For my money, in an ambitious bid for credibility as a serious actor, Vin Diesel tries hard here, but despite his imposing physical stature he just doesn't have either the finesse or the gravitas to carry off the role of Jackie DiNorscio; a pivotal member of the true-life New Jersey Lucchese crime family who have been brought to court on 76 charges of various crimes.
This resulted in the longest criminal trial in U.S. history. No stranger to the courtroom (12 Angry Men, The Verdict), veteran filmmaker Sidney Lumet helmed this 2006 dramedy, and while some of his prowess is evident on the edges, the film is a relatively lifeless slog through the exhausting duration of the trial.
Lumet, who co-wrote the script with T.J. Mancini and Robert J. McCrea, seems to think the story is compelling enough itself without having to invest much in terms of story structure to the production. It turns out to be a key error in judgment.
The problems start with the toupee-challenged Diesel who seems to be left out to dry by Lumet, as his lunk-headed, clownish presence makes DiNorscio's dilemma less than palpable.
After refusing a plea bargain from hyper-obsessed federal prosecutor Sean Kierney, DiNorscio chooses to represent himself in court, and it would have taken a more outsized personality than Diesel's to emphasize the dramatic impact of this ploy.
Fortunately, Lumet still shows an idiosyncratic sense in casting many of the other roles, and three actors stand out. First, Peter Dinklage (The Station Agent) lends a becalming authority to the role of one of the defense attorneys and as it turns out, the one ally DiNorscio can trust.
That he is a dwarf comes up only when a platform is wheeled into the courtroom for him to provide arguments. Second, Annabella Sciorra has a powerful cameo as DiNorscio's embittered ex-wife whose visit with her cheating ex-husband becomes a chain-smoking rite of passage for her.
Finally, in his film debut, Broadway sensation Raúl Esparza (Company) plays the key role of DiNorscio's greasy, drug-addicted cousin Tony Compagna with surprising relish.
His character's desperate act opens the film, but it's the brief climactic cross-examination scene that finally brings the trial to life with Tony visibly breaking down under the weight of his betrayal to DiNorscio.
I just wish the rest of the movie was as involving. The usually low-key British actor Linus Roache is a surprising choice to play Kierney, and he provides the necessary bombast but with a wavering accent.
The rest of the casting is more typical with Alex Rocco playing head gangster Nick Calabrese and Ron Silver as the often exasperated presiding Judge.
Lumet unwisely uses musical cues to punctuate the action, though the music often overwhelms the dialogue to the point of distraction.
OK, so the bottom line here is that we are shown that there is no black and white reality out there, but one of varied, subtle hues and tones on both the destructive and the constructive sides of the forces that are metaphysically opposed to each other. Lesson learned either way, I guess.
In conclusion, it's not every day you can actually want a case such as this one to go well for the defendant. Especially when it's such a known and true case about people who lived and breathed the term of being really "bad people"!
This brand new Special Edition Blu-ray from MVD Visual comes with 'A Conversation with Sidney Lumet, which strangely has been broken up into multiple parts, despite the cursory nature of Lumet's comments in each section, I might add. This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.78:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs and comes with the aforementioned Special Features of:
A Conversation with Sidney Lumet (4:43)
Original Theatrical Trailer (2:27)
3 TV Spots (SD)
'Find Me Guilty: Special Edition' Blu-ray will be released on September 27th, 2019 via MVD Visual.