A Time to Kill (1996)

Joel Schumacher directs Matthew McConaughey, Sandra Bullock and Samuel L. Jackson in the John Grisham courtroom drama where a white lawyer defends a guilty black man who killed the racists who raped and left for dead his child.

For a big glossy studio entertainment A Time To Kill starts with a bloody sexual assault on a child, effectively uses the KKK as a villainous backdrop and make some very un-lefty statements about capital punishment. It also is a compelling watch. Well plotted, even if it gets a little too hooked on recurring attacks by the racists on the legal team. The narrative is gripping enough without such embellishments, we didn’t need the fifth mini-action sequence to cause the record to skip. McConaughey makes fine work of his first lead role (even if bizarrely Sandra Bullock is topped billed in the credits) and lands the difficult final monologue. Yet of all the attractive names the project attracted, it is Samuel L Jackson who walks away with the honours. Shame his incarcerated character struggles for screentime when the plot is opened up and out of the courthouse. Solid Saturday night entertainment.


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