Find Me Guilty
How refreshing to see Vin Diesel try something completely new and different. He shows he's more dimensional than his contemporaries (like The Rock, for example), but it's too bad the whole piece feels a bit like a long movie-of-the-week.
The true story of the longest criminal trial in U.S. history is told through the eyes of one defendant, "Jackie Dee" DiNorscio (Vin Diesel), who ends up representing himself while 19 other members of the notorious Lucchese crime network is being tried around him. Jackie brings a much-needed air of brash simpatico to the courtroom as he describes how his cousin walked into his bedroom and shot him four times, and a fellow defendant collapses and remains in a hospital bed for the duration of the trail. As he tries to mend relations with his wife and kids and attempts his own brand of lawyering, Jackie turns the court into a stage as if he's testing a stand-up comedy routine.
Yeah, Vin proves he's a better actor than The Rock, but somehow playing a low-class goomba doesn't seem all that hard for him. Diesel is practically unrecognizable with a partial toupee, showing a thinning hairline, and of course, there's the few pounds he put on for the part. Peter Dinklage, who got noticed after The Station Agent, plays one of the defense attorneys who needs to have a heightened podium set up every time he talks to the jury. He, and Ron Silver as the judge, play their roles with tongue-in-cheek humor as well as necessary bravado. However, the rest of the mob looks like they came from the Sopranos casting rejects, and Linus Roache (Priest), who's normally a fine actor, is way over-the-top with his tirades as the prosecutor.
How could a visionary master like Sidney Lumet think that this protracted courtroom drama could be interesting for more than two hours? Courtroom dramas are usually rather tedious, but this is the guy who brought us 12 Angry Men a few decades ago, so you think he'd know how to make the legal process appear interesting on film. But he misses it with Guilty. When Diesel's character addresses the jury, his sincere charm seems to captivate the jury, and it translates to the audience, but then we're shown Jackie's seedier side, too. Much of the dialogue is taken from actual court transcripts, and most of the film is shot in one room--much like 12 Angry Men--but the conflict and the drama doesn't seem to carry through the whole movie.
Hollywood.com rated this movie two and a half stars.