12 Angry Men (William Friedkin, 1997)
[originally posted 19Feb2001]
Friedkin’s made-for-television adaptation of the classic 1957 film is surprisingly well-thought-out and executed with a atyle most straight-to-small-screen works lack. Jack Lemmon and George C. Scott presage their conflicts in the later made-for-TV remake Inherit the Wind as the two jurors who refuse to budge from their convictions that a murder case does and does not have reasonable doubt attached to it, respectively.
As with the original, 12 Angry Men is really an ensemble piece, the first American example of avant-garde filmmaking on a mass scale; with the exception of a few brief flashes at beginning and end, the film takes place in two adjoining rooms, a jury room and a men’s room, allowing the director no scenic latitude at all and forcing him to concentrate on the actors themselves. Friedkin, as Lumet before him, gathers a mix of the well-known and the underrated from all corners of the Hollywood backlot, gives each a speech, and goes to great pains to ensure that those who espouse even the most controversial views are as charismatic as those who are warmer and fuzzier. In other words, this is an actors’ movie, pure and simple, and if you enjoy watching actors do what they do, you’ll get a kick out of this. ****