Film Review - FIND ME GUILTY - Review by RUTH SHARPE.jpg

Film Review – FIND ME GUILTY – Review by RUTH SHARPE

A guilty pleasure

PUTTING THE mafia in the courtroom is always going to result in controversy, however, in Find Me Guilty, director Sydney Lumet has turned fact into an action packed account of a seamlessly never ending court case. Based on actual events and testimony, Find Me Guilty is a depiction of the longest running mafia trial in American history.

Giacomo “Jackie D” DiNorscio (Diesel) is one of 20 members of the Lucchese crime family to go on trial for violation of the Racketeering Influenced and Corrupt Organisation (RICO) Act. Between them, they face 76 charges, ranging from criminal conspiracy to narcotics trafficking.

Jackie, who is already serving a 30 year sentence for drug possession, refuses an offer from DA Sean Kierney (Roache) to be released sooner, in return for his testimony. For Jackie, nothing is worse than snitching on his family, something he refuses to do.

The Lucchese trial takes place over a 21 month period, between early 1987 and late 1988. Each mobster has his own lawyer except Jackie, who throws a spanner in the works by deciding to defend himself, against the advice of the lead defense counsel Ben Klandis (Dinklage) and the judge (Silver). What follows is a string of inappropriate theatrics by DiNorscio, who somehow begins to win over the jury, in spite of his obvious guilt. The film essentially highlights a flawed judicial system, in which sometimes the best defense is a little offensive.

Diesel, who had to gain 30 pounds for the part, displays more acting ability than you would expect. Free from his usual tight lipped action roles, he puts across a very engaging character and his performance is one of the best things about this film. Find Me Guilty requires him to combine drama and comedy without the benefit of an action net, his slip-ups are few and when circumstances demand it, he can turn serious.

The real Jackie D’s stint as his own lawyer often resembled a stand-up act and this comedic standpoint is reflected throughout, depicting what you would expect from an infamous mob trial.

Lumet and his co-screenwriters have taken large chunks of dialogue from the actual transcripts, therefore, not letting the film venture too far from the facts. But, there is a crucial difference between Find Me Guilty and the traditional courtroom drama. Typically, this kind of story is about a guiltless man trying to prove his innocence. Here, it is about a guilty man trying to con a jury for the sake of his crime family.

The principal supporting cast is very solid. Roache manages to make the cartoonish Kierney a legitimate force, and the straight-faced readings of Dinklage and Silver give great credibility to the courtroom setting. The real Jackie D was released from prison on parole a few years ago and visited the set in its early inception, however, he died while the film was in the later stages of production.

Lumet’s raw approach means that about 75 per cent of the scenes take place in the courtroom. Shots are composed in a straightforward manner and camera angles are basic. The film avoids over-editing and unnecessary close-ups. This is the best methodology the director could have employed, as it allows his talented cast and solid script to remain unencumbered by technical flourishes.

Find Me Guilty is not the best work Lumet has done in his six decades in the industry, but it is worthwhile viewing for anyone who likes gangsters, courtrooms and what happens when the two are put together.

RATING: * * *

*   missable

* *   reasonable

* * *   entertaining

* * * *   very good

* * * * * outstanding