Citizen Verdict
2 out of 5 stars
R E V I E W   B Y   R I C H   C L I N E
citizen verdict There's a streak of dry wit that runs through this searing look at both reality television and the American legal system but alas, the filmmakers can't maintain their grip on the material. It all starts when powerful TV producer Marty Rockman (Springer) convinces Florida's governor (Scheider) that he can solve the state's crime problem by putting justice into the hands of the people in a reality TV series titled Citizen Verdict. After a three hour trial, during which the hired-gun lawyers (Assante and Mitchell) go at each other using all the manipulative media tools at their disposal, viewers phone to vote whether the defendant (Degruttola) is guilty or not guilty. And if it's guilty, they can watch the execution on pay-per-view!

There's a seriously important idea here, and the filmmakers tackle it head on. But the small budget shows in the way the film is shot and edited--scenes seem slapped together and mismatched, performances vary from tight and sardonic to mopey and melodramatic, the variety of filming locations shows (both South Africa and Canada stand in for Florida from time to time). All of this would be fine if the film itself maintained its vision. But while it touches on the manipulative TV and justice systems, the filmmakers focus on the unconvincing personal journey of Assante's character. They also rely on far too many musical montage sequences; there are three of them in the final segment alone, badly undermining the power these scenes might have had. The script toys with TV cliches such as the fact that Assante lives on a boat, or that the viewers chose between three notorious murders (celebrity, religious and racial), which hints at a much smarter satire than we eventually get. It's like the filmmakers lack the inventiveness, skills or, most importantly, the nerve to go for the jugular, like Dan Minahan's superb Series 7 did with similar themes. There's a great film in here trying to get out, and it does occasionally burst forth brilliantly, only to be drowned out eventually in swampy moralising.

cert 15 themes, language, sex, violence 8.Sep.03

dir Philippe Martinez
scr Tony Clarke, Frank Rehwaldt, Kristina Hamilton, Philippe Martinez
with Armand Assante, Jerry Springer, Roy Scheider, Raffaello Degruttola, Justine Mitchell, Dorette Potgieter, Clive Scott, Andre Jacobs, Lynne Blades, Paul Burton Wilson, Brendan Pollecutt, Brett Goldin
release UK 12.Sep.03, US 6.May.05
03/UK-Germany 1h37

Get the real story if you can: Assante, Potgeiter and Degruttola

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2003 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall