(Air Date: 1989 )
"Criminal Law" opens with a sequence in which attorney Gary Oldman is shown defending a wholesome-looking killer portrayed by Kevin Bacon. Oldman destroys an eyewitness account because she was wrong about when she last purchased diapers. If she was wrong about the diapers, Oldman contends, why couldn't she wrong about identifying the murderer? Sure, says the jury, and Bacon is a free man. At this point, the film could have gone anywhere, and that's the main problem with "Criminal Law". It goes EVERYWHERE.
At first, Mark Kasdan's script appears to be commenting on a legal system which frees Bacon to kill again and again with Oldman as his reluctant collaborator. But then, perhaps encouraged by the ongoing Wade vs. Roe controversy, Kasdan tries to show how having an abortionist for a mother unhinges Bacon. The images of the smoking and flaming victims are too grisly for us to feel sorry for this demented killer. So the script introduces a strong female character (Karen Young) who goes to bed with Oldman for reasons best known to Kasdan. Then she beats up Bacon before she vanishes from the plot.
A dying professor is dragged in to make Oldman cry at the astonishing news that law and justice are different. When all else fails, Officer Joe Don Baker patiently explains that "Crazy killers are crazy", resulting in unintentional audience laughter and a bullet in the stomach. Bacon and Oldman beat each other up, sort of, in an empty courtroom. Bacon cries some more. It's a stretch for him as an actor. Oldman, too. And Martin Campbell's direction of this suspenseless thriller is "stylish". The producers say so. They aren't concerned about the reviews. "Criminal Law" was originally hyped by manipulative commercials in which nameless people were shown walking out of a theatre and saying how great the film and the actors are. Who were these people and why were they there? Why should anyone trust them? Most of THEM probably couldn't remember the last time THEY bought diapers!
Copyright 1989 Monica Sullivan
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