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Criminal Law (Blu-ray Review)

Criminal-LawCriminal Law stars Gary Oldman (The Dark Knight trilogy, Air Force One, True Romance) and Kevin Bacon (TV’s The Following, Footloose, Friday The 13th, X-Men: First Class).  The film co-stars Tess Harper (Tender Mercies), Karen Young (9 1/2 Weeks) and Joe Don Baker (Walking Tall) in a film directed by Martin Campbell (Casino Royale, GoldenEye) from a screenplay written by Mark Kasdan.  As a huge fan of GoldenEye, Casino Royale and Zorro, making me a Campbell supporter when it comes to practical based films (We all know how he did when he ventured into space with Ryan Reynolds to give us the less than favorable Green Lantern), I was eager to dig into this early thriller of his that I had never seen before.

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Film 

Ben Chase is an on-the-rise Boston attorney currently defending a wealthy client in a high profile murder case. Martin Thiel is the wealthy young man on trial for a particularly brutal murder. The verdict sets Thiel free. Within 24 hours another grizzly and all-too-familiar murder has taken place with striking similarities to the first crime. As suspicions mount, Thiel contacts Chase to once again defend him. Realizing his culpability in having allowed Thiel to walk free after the first trial, Chase inexplicably agrees to act as his defense attorney; but this time it will be to gather evidence that will put away his client for good. But who’s manipulating who in this edge-of-your-seat thrill ride?

Martin Campbell may have been plenty ahead of his time with this courtroom thriller.  This is the kind of movie that populated multiplexes monthly during the 1990s.  Star driven courtroom dramas, thrillers, Silence of the Lambs knock offs among others.  These kind of movies have been making a little bit of a comeback in recent years, but its not in the full onslaught mode like it once was.

Basically with this movie you get the brilliance of Gary Oldman versus the brilliance of Kevin Bacon.  While Bacon is a crazy deranged killer, he manages to keep an eerie cool during his intense sequences.  Its Oldman who gets to go full on crazy.  He’s an on edge, alcoholic lawyer who is trying to bust his ass to be a big timer by taking all these defense cases.  Now he’s representing Bacon after he got him off once before, but this time its to try and secretly build a case against him.  Oldman also gets to have an insane rough sex scene intercut with racquetball that you won’t soon forget after seeing it.

Director Martin Campbell shows a penchant for suspense that I think he would later plug into his action exposes in the next 2 decades.  The editing in the film also helps to build on some of the tense situations.  He also fills some scenes up with some genuine dread and horrifically creepy atmospheres.

Is Criminal Law some criminally unseen classic?  Nah, but it sure is like a smarter and tastier bag of potato chips.  For me, Oldman v Bacon: Dawn of Justice was enough to keep me entertained throughout.  The film has its moments and they do work.  For those who are fans of Martin Campbell or any of the actors, its worth seeking out.

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Video 

Encoding: MPEG-4 AVC

Resolution: 1o80p

Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1

Clarity/Detail:  This features a pretty solid transfer for what it is.  Detail is decent on fabrics and surfaces.  The image is as crisp as can be, but is just a hair on the softer side.

Depth:  Average.  Movements are smooth and background images look decent for what the focus provides.

Black Levels:  Blacks are pretty rich.  Some detail is hidden in poorly lit scenes.  Some light crushing witnessed.

Color Reproduction:  Colors are natural.  Not too flat, but everything is lifelike and held in check.

Flesh Tones:  Natural and consistent.  Detail is pretty notable on wrinkles and facial blemishes on close ups.

Noise/Artifacts: A pretty good print, mostly just some grain and minor specs.

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Audio 

Audio Format(s): English 2.0 DTS-HD MA

Subtitles: N/A

Dynamics:  The audio here is decently balanced between the effects, vocals and scoring.  Sometimes they sort of whip together, but most of the time they are free of one another.  For an adult procedural drama, it heats all the necessary beats to do the trick.

Low Frequency Extension: N/A

Surround Sound Presentation: N/A

Dialogue Reproduction:  Dialogue is crisp and clean.

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Extras

Criminal Law contains no supplemental features.  Menu offers “Play Movie” and “Chapters”.

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Summary 

Criminal Law is a solid courtroom – serial killer feature highlighted by the talents of its leads in Gary Oldman and Kevin Bacon.  Its also nifty to check out an early film of Martin Campbell, pre-GoldenEye.  Olive Films’ release features no bonus material which is to be expected of them, but does have a nice solid presentation with good looking video and a decent audio track.  If you’re a fan of the movie, this is a nice release for what it is.

Criminal-Law-Blu-ray

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Writer/Reviewer, lifelong obsessive film nerd. As eager to educate in the world of film as I am to learn. An avid lover of horror, schlock and trash, Brandon hosts the Cult Cinema Cavalcade podcast on the Creative Zombie Studios Network (www.cultcinemacavalcade.com) You can also find more essays on his blog Naptown Nerd (naptownnerd.blogspot.com).

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