A young inexperienced lawyer defends a black man standing accused of murdering the two men who raped his ten-year-old daughter, unaware of the catastrophic consequences taking the case may have one his own life.
Carl Lee Hailey (Samuel L. Jackson) takes justice into his own hands when two beer-guzzling rednecks rape, beat and attempt to murder his ten-year-old daughter. After murdering both men in the courthouse of their bail hearing, Carl faces what almost everyone would consider an unwinnable fight for freedom, and it is down to his lawyer, Jake Brigance (Matthew McConaughey) to stop him going to the gas chamber. As though the struggle to convince a jury of his innocence against ruthless persecution lawyer Rufus Buckley (Kevin Spacey) isn’t enough, Carl cannot raise the funds to pay Jake’s fee, and Jake himself faces paying the ultimate price when a white man representing a black murderer in Mississippi sparks a rebirth of the KKK.
A Time To Kill is a film that I think is incredibly underrated. Not that many people have heard of it, and if they have, it’s only because of one of the actors in it. Critics were undecided about the film; some saying it was actually pretty good, others that the whole concept was beyond ridiculous. I am telling you right now that this film adaptation of John Grisham’s novel is a must-see, and here’s why.
The acting by the whole cast is marvellous. Samuel L. Jackson shows us all how diverse he can be with his performance as Carl – a father facing the ultimate test. His situation was heart breaking, but even when he was in jail awaiting the David vs. Goliath trial, he never gave up. Jackson’s performance was sincere, and you sympathised with him because he was a man who had been hit where it hurt the most, and when he had done his best to path up the wound, nobody was willing to help him because of the colour of his skin.
Today, this would be one of those gritty parts that everybody has come to know and love him for in what is probably the hottest form of his career, but in 1996, McConaughey was the new kid on the block when he played Jake in his first lead role in a major blockbuster. He was tremendous as the young lawyer who nearly lost everything when he took on the case. There was the usual charm that I personally always look forward to when watching one of his films, and glimpses of what we now know was to come in films such as The Lincoln Lawyer, True Detective and perhaps even Dallas Buyers Club. The moral dilemma he faced when it came to representing Carl and the devotion he eventually gave to the case was evident in his performance, and I think we should all have known that this man would go on to achieve big things with his career.
A Time To Kill featured many big names besides Jackson and McConaughey. Kevin Spacey I have already mentioned, but Sandra Bullock, Donald and Keifer Sutherland and Ashly Judd also starred. Quite honestly, how this film failed to reach wider audiences I’ll never know. Not only was the cast brilliant, but the storyline was so gripping. It touched upon some heavy matters, and some scenes were very hard to watch, plus there is the inevitable outcome of the court case at the centre of the plot, but the twists and turns woven into it all meant that I for one found it hard to look away from, and actually very nearly ended up being late for work that night – you are welcome, my dear reader chums!
I think it goes without saying that what I’m about to do next is urge you to watch A Time To Kill. For me, it was magnificent – there was raw emotion in some of the performances and so many snaking twists in the plot that it wasn’t so much a courtroom drama, but very, very easily a tense thriller.