…And Justice For All Blu-Ray

Discussion in 'Blu-ray and UHD' started by MatthewA, Apr 27, 2011.

  1. MatthewA

    MatthewA Lead Actor

    Apr 19, 2000
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    Salinas, CA
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    …And Justice For All

    Studio: Sony Pictures (distributed by Image)

    Year: 1979

    Rated: R

    Length: 119 Minutes

    Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1

    Resolution: 1080p

    Languages: English

    Subtitles: English SDH, Spanish

    MSRP: $17.97

    Film Release Date: October 19, 1979

    Disc Release Date: April 5, 2011

    Disc Review Date: April 22, 2011

    You're out of order! You're out of order! The whole trial is out of order!”

    The Movie:


    When I was younger, my father told me that the American system of justice is not based on right or wrong but on what you can prove. Although everyone’s right to a fair trial is protected by the Sixth Amendment when one stands trial for a crime, one can only be found guilty or not guilty, which is not a synonym for innocent. It only means there is insufficient proof to establish guilt. Thus, our own system of justice has at times let guilty men go free and sent innocent men to jail. Even when there is already incontrovertible proof of guilt, in the eyes of the law the guilty party is not guilty until a jury finds him so. The duty of a defense lawyer is just that, to defend a client regardless of guilt or innocence. In 1979, Columbia Pictures released Norman Jewison's …And Justice For All, a film which pushed that principle to its limit.

    After being released from prison on a contempt of court charge he received for assaulting a judge, Baltimore defense attorney Arthur Kirkland (Al Pacino) finds himself forced to defend Judge Fleming (John Forsythe), who has been charged with rape. Fleming is the same judge that Kirkland assaulted after wrongly convicting one of his clients, Jeff McCullough, based on mistaken identity, planted evidence, and ignoring the plea bargain made with the original judge in the case. Kirkland's selection is, by the admission of Fleming's assistant, a political move. The reckless, adventurous Judge Rayford (Jack Warden) advises Kirkland to take the case, warning him of the risk to his career if he doesn’t. While Kirkland asks Fleming to reopen the McCullough case, Fleming reluctantly agrees to a polygraph test, which he passes, while the prosecuting attorney (Craig T. Nelson) is determined to convict Fleming at all costs. After one client hangs himself in jail and the SWAT team shoots another, Kirkland’s disillusionment with the system grows. When another client shows him photographs of Fleming, the head of the ethics committee, and a prostitute, he comes to the conclusion that Fleming is guilty, while his girlfriend, Gail Packer (Christine Lahti), a member of the ethics committee, advises him to keep prosecuting the case. When Kirkland shows Fleming the photographs, he confesses to the crime yet still intends to plead not guilty. Now, Kirkland must choose between his job and his integrity.

    What better director was there to helm this material than Norman Jewison? His filmography demonstrates a strong aptitude for dealing with social issues, from racial or religious prejudice in In the Heat of the Night and Fiddler on the Roof to the Cold War in The Russians Are Coming! The Russians Are Coming!, to labor unions in F.I.S.T. He does an exemplary job directing the actors and dealing with the complex issues of corruption in the legal system. And to play a role of this intensity and complexity, what better actor was there to play Kirkland than Al Pacino? Watching such roles as this shows exactly how he became one of Hollywood’s most beloved actors. He plays the role with a powerful and wide emotional range and intensity that earned him a Best Actor Oscar nomination. His cast supports him admirably, especially Jack Warden, Christine Lahti, and Jeffrey Tambor as an unstable fellow lawyer who suffers a nervous breakdown. Lee Strasberg, in a fine performance as Kirkland’s grandfather who suffers from dementia, reinforces the film’s theme of integrity and honesty, while John Forsythe gives one of his best performances, playing his role with a subtle malice. The Oscar-nominated script, co-written by Barry Levinson, who would soon become a renowned director in his own right, mixes an interesting character study and a sharp satire of the legal system with a quirky and dark—and often quite funny—sense of humor, in the tradition of such pitch black 1970s satires as The Hospital and Network. It does not paint a halo over its protagonist's head. He is quick to fly into a rage, but his rage is in defense of his principles, which he defends even at his own expense. And the script provides no simplistic, black-and-white answers to its question. While Kirkland’s clients have certainly been wronged by inconsiderate judges, are his tactics any better? The film trusts the audience to answer that question for itself. A film like this could not be made today in Hollywood.

    The Video:


    The film is presented in its original theatrical aspect ratio of 1.85:1. It is not a pretty film, and the transfer, while not “bad” in any technical sense, reflects that accurately. Like most 1970s films, the color scheme is warm and neutral with few strong primaries; fleshtones are accurate, the shadows are deep but not crushed, and highlights are not blown out. The film element used has very little dust and no scratches, but there is a heavy grain structure that Sony and Image have, mercifully, decided to leave intact. If they had used DNR on it, there would be no fine details at all. The credits and the Columbia logo are grainier than the rest of the film, but this is because of the poor quality of dupe stock at the time. There is some banding in a couple of scenes, but nothing serious enough to take away from the rest of the film. I have nothing with which to compare it, but considering the source those more familiar with the film should be satisfied.

    The Audio:


    Originally in mono, the film has been remixed the film for surround sound, which is presented here in DTS-HD MA. The main beneficiary of this upgrade is Dave Grusin’s über-70s smooth jazz score. It comes through clearly with a strong balance of low, middle, and high frequencies. The dialogue and effects rest comfortably in the center channel, and the dialogue reflects the limitations of the source material; it’s serviceable, but far below the standards we’ve become accustomed to since the advent of digital sound. It has a boxy, slightly distorted sound to it; there’s nothing that our current technology can do about that. Purists beware: the original mono track is nowhere to be found.

    The Extras:


    Unlike MGM’s Blu-Ray of Jewison’s Fiddler on the Roof released the same day, …And Justice For All has lost almost all of its extras. While a special edition released a few years ago had an Behind the Scenes Sneak Peek of Pacino’s then-current release, 88 Minutes, a director’s commentary, two documentaries: “Norman Jewison: The Testimony of the Director” and “Barry Levinson: Cross Examining the Screenwriter”, plus some deleted scenes; never having seen the film before or the disc, I don’t know how many.

    Here, we only get the grainy theatrical trailer in a 4x3 ratio, and exactly one deleted scene in which Judge Fleming explains his position in the McCullough case to Kirkland. Whether it would have added or subtracted from the film is a matter of opinion, but apparently Norman Jewison could live without it. Both are 480i, and the deleted scene is 16x9 and full of grain and scratches.

    Final Score:


    An emotionally charged, intense, morally complex, and darkly amusing satire of the dark side of American justice, …And Justice For All on Blu-Ray, like other discs from the Sony/Image deal, provides an upgrade in picture and sound quality and a downgrade in supplemental quantity. I find this trend disturbing, and it will affect my scores of all Blu-Rays I review in the future. Just like Image’s release of The People vs. Larry Flynt the same day, get the Blu-Ray for the picture and sound and keep the Special Edition DVD for the extras.

    Edited to remove repetitive text
  2. Ronald Epstein

    Ronald Epstein Founder

    Jul 3, 1997
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    Ronald Epstein

    Thank you for the terrific review.

    And Justice For All is somewhere within my top

    20 favorite films. The final moments of the film with

    Pacino yelling out the quote you provided at the top

    of your review is one of the most memorable lines of

    dialogue in film history (with a few choice words added).

    I will probably pick this Blu-ray up at some point.

  3. benbess

    benbess Cinematographer

    Sep 8, 2009
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    Yes, terrific review. Al Pacino is great in this one--although I haven't seen it since it was playing in heavy rotation on our cable station in 1981...

    "They gear up for this kinda thing!" is another quote from the film that's stayed with me...
  4. Scott Shanks

    Scott Shanks Second Unit

    Mar 10, 2001
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    Louisville, Ky
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    Scott Shanks
    Lots of spoilers in that review.
  5. Brianruns10

    Brianruns10 Second Unit

    Sep 14, 2008
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    Whoever did the photoshop work on that cover should be fired. Pacino's head look like it's sitting on his shoulder.

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