A Time To Kill

The latest screen adaptation of a John Grisham novel is set in one of those sleepy southern towns where everyone sweats constantly, men seem always to be loosening their ties, and all hell is on the verge of breaking loose for one reason or another. Here, tensions flare after a black man (Samuel L. Jackson) is brought to trial for the revenge killing of his 10-year-old daughter's redneck rapists. A Time to Kill embodies all that is wrong with Hollywood attempts to address important issues, raising questions of race and justice but refusing to deal with them on anything but the most simplified, manipulative moral terms. The presiding judge is named Noose and, lest we forget where our sympathies are meant to lie, Grisham and company bring in the Ku Klux Klan to oppose the father. Despite this, there's not a weak performance among the principals, particularly Jackson and Kevin Spacey, as usual. Pretty-boy Matthew McConaughey might turn out to be the real thing after all: He deftly delivers a climactic speech that would sound ridiculous rendered by a lesser talent. Still, A Time To Kill's superficial handling of race relations and ultimate endorsement of vigilantism are questionable at best.

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