Find Me Guilty
Vin Diesel with hair! Vin Diesel can act! Vin Diesel is fat! Surprisingly enough, Vin Diesel delivers a performance that is well-done and is not in the action genre. Playing a mid-level mobster in one of the more notorious crime families in New York of the second half of the 20th century, Vin Diesel more than holds his own in this chuckler of a court-room drama.
Diesel plays Jackie DiNorscio, a mobster accused and charged with all sorts of accusations; ya'know, the usual mob stuff: racketeering, gambling, guns, drugs, even murder. You name it, this crime family has done it all. Though they all stand together as a single defendant (if one goes down, they all go down), each member of the family on trial has their own attorney. Except for Jackie. He has decided that lawyers always screw him over, so he's going to represent himself. You can imagine what a trial with a wise-cracking angry Italian mobster as a criminal defense lawyer might be like. It gets pretty hairy; not to mention funny. Kind of like a more serious version of "My Cousin Vinny."
His fellow mobsters and their attorneys are not sure what to make of Jackie as his own lawyer. Sure, he's funny and gets the jury laughing, but he's also rude and obnoxious and does not make them look good in front of the judge (played by Ron Silver). The Don especially doesn't like Jackie's antics. But since Jackie is already in jail serving a 30 year sentence for another unrelated crime, he doesn't see any reason to rat on his friends or make a deal. He's a guy with nothing to lose.
For those of you who like courtroom dramas and gangsters, this is the movie for you. For me, I just wanted to see if Diesel could pull-off a more serious role with some depth to the character. And I'm happy to report that he can. He's got real feelings of anxiety, anger, heartache, loyalty and a whole spectrum of emotions so important to this role...and most of all humor. I don't mean to make it sound like this movie is hilarious. It's not. It's a serious film, but with a sort of class-clown mobster in the leading role.
Sidney Lumet is no stranger to the courtroom and "Find me Guilty" shows that very well. Based on a true story with much of the dialogue actually taken straight from courtroom transcripts, Lumet has taken realism to new heights. With about 10 defendents, each with a bunch of lawyers, this was probably the most packed courtroom I had ever seen. It was, at the time, the longest court battle in American History (almost two years in the running). The film does a good job of cutting through all the crap and hearing exposition we don't need and only focuses on Jackie's character's feelings and antics.
The supporting cast are all above average as well. Especially Peter Dinklage as lead defense counsel and Alex Rocco as crotchety Don, Nick Calabrese. Annabella Sciorra makes one brief appearance as Jackie's ex-wife who plays a great, although probabaly unnecessary, scene. Everyone in this film brings something to the table.
It's not the greatest movie I've ever seen and it's certainly not Lumet's best work, but it is worth the price of admission. I enjoyed the performances, I enjoyed the story and I enjoyed the humor. If for no oher reason, see the film to get a different perspective on Diesel. He's not the bad-ass, cliche action hero or a ho-hum, un-funny comic as in a few of his past outtings. It's a real character with some real emotion and depth; thrown into a helluva situation and great courtroom battle. Waiting to see the final verdict was a bit like waiting for the verdict from that circus of a hearing that a guy named O.J. was involved with. I was definitely guilty of enjoyment.