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…And Justice For All Blu-Ray

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

  1. MatthewA

    MatthewA Lead Actor

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    [​IMG]


    …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:

    4/5



    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:

    3.5/5

    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:

    3.5/5



    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:

    2/5



    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:

    3.5/5

    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
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    Matthew,


    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.



    Visit our [​IMG]DVD, [​IMG]BLU-RAY and [​IMG]3D REVIEW ARCHIVES
     
  3. benbess

    benbess Producer

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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

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    Lots of spoilers in that review.
     
  5. Brianruns10

    Brianruns10 Second Unit

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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.
     
  6. The Drifter

    The Drifter Supporting Actor

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    Bumping an old thread - I recently saw AJFA on Blu for the first time. Very impressive film & presentation. Here's my review:

    Technical:

    The Audio & PQ were both decent. Not perfect, but solid. Though I haven't seen the regular DVD in a while, this Blu is a definite upgrade.

    Film:

    Incredible. One of Pacino's best roles, and definitely one of the my top five legal thrillers. Honest & realistic look at the unfairness of the justice system, and how mistakes & sloppiness can cause horrible & irreparable damage to people's lives & reputations.
    The two clients that Pacino had at the beginning of the film (the man dressed like a woman, and the guy who was put in jail because of mistaken identity) both got a raw deal due to sloppy representation & stupid technicalities. The fact that both died soon after (one killed himself, and the other was killed by the authorities after he lost it) was tragic, but not unexpected.

    Also, the film shined a light on something everyone knows anyway, but isn't talked about that much - i.e., if a criminal has a lot of money and/or is in a position of power/influence, they will be given very obvious preferential treatment.

    Interesting to see Pacino's legal partner in the film (played by J. Tambor) also go nuts due to his guilt re: years of defending criminals who go back out & commit the same crimes. The scene(s) when he shaved his head (which was very unusual back in the late '70's) - and then later went crazy & threw dinner plates at people in the halls of the courthouse - was both funny & disturbing. I also wonder if Tambor's character here "inspired" his later character on the iconic crime drama Hill Street Blues (1981-1987) - in that show, he played a judge who had a lot of strange idiosyncrasies - ha ha.

    The scene at the very end of the film -
    when Pacino actually started prosecuting the scum-bag judge client he was tasked to defend - is one of my favorite scenes in cinema. Classic!!!:

    Arthur Kirkland: The one thing that bothered me, the one thing that stayed in my mind and I couldn't get rid of it, that haunted me, was 'why?' Why would she lie? What was her motive for lyin'? If my client is innocent, she's lying. Why? Was it blackmail? No. Was it jealousy? No. Yesterday, I found out why. She doesn't have a motive. You know why? Because she's not lying. And ladies and gentlemen of the jury, the prosecution is not gonna get that man today. No! Because I'm gonna get him! My client, the Honorable Henry T. Fleming, should go right to $#$#%$% jail! The son of a ***** is guilty! This man is guilty! That man, there, that man is a slime! He is a slime! If he's allowed to go free, then something really wrong is goin' on here! That man is guilty! That man, there, that man is a slime! he is a *slime*! If he's allowed to go free, then something really wrong is goin' on here!

    Judge Rayford: Mr. Kirkland you are out of order!

    Arthur Kirkland: You're out of order! You're out of order! The whole trial is out of order! They're out of order!
     
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  7. Jeffrey D

    Jeffrey D Supporting Actor

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    I think Pacino got an Oscar nomination for this film.
    The most memorable scene is the helicopter ride
    (this scene alone is why people should give this movie a watch).
     
  8. Sam Posten

    Sam Posten Moderator
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    Uhhhhh.... "I'm out of order???" would like a word...
     
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  9. Jeffrey D

    Jeffrey D Supporting Actor

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    A little off topic, but this film is referenced in a Becker episode. Becker uses Pacino’s dialog while making a point during a malpractice lawsuit in the court room. The judge angrily tells him “You have no idea how much I hate that damn movie!”
    Funny scene in the show.
     
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  10. Colin Jacobson

    Colin Jacobson Lead Actor

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    He did - his fifth!

    I completely forgot that he was nominated for an Oscar for "Dick Tracy"! :eek:
     
  11. Jeffrey D

    Jeffrey D Supporting Actor

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    Wow-Dick Tracy? I think his only win was for Scent Of A Woman, but I think he could have
    and maybe should have won for Dog Day Afternoon (he did a better job than Nicholson did for Cuckoo’s Nest, and Pacino had a harder part to play, in my opinion).
     
  12. Colin Jacobson

    Colin Jacobson Lead Actor

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    Pacino did win his only Oscar for "Scent" - and it was clearly a "career Oscar", as his performance in "Scent" didn't warrant awards, IMO. He'd gone into "Hammy Al" mode by then.

    Pacino turned in plenty of great work back in the 70s, but from the 80s to date, he's been terribly erratic. He still pulls out a good performance on occasion, but too much of the time, he just yells and overacts.

    Pacino would've deserved the Oscar for any of his 5 70s noms...
     
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  13. bujaki

    bujaki Producer

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    See Vittorio Gassman's performance in 1974's Profumo di donna (Scent of a Woman) for a truly great non-hammy turn. Pacino ruined it with his over the top "acting".
     
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  14. Sam Favate

    Sam Favate Lead Actor

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    There was a time, in the 1970s, when they could have given Pacino the Best Actor Oscar every year. And Justice For All, a great film but not his best, may have his most Oscar-worthy performance. I also think he deserved a nomination for The Godfather III. Yes, III.
    I have been meaning to upgrade this film from my DVD. Glad to hear the Blu-ray is worth it.
     

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