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15Citizen Verdict (2003)

updated 10th September 2003
reviewer's rating
two star
Reviewed by Jamie Russell


Director
Philippe Martinez
Writer
Philippe Martinez
Tony Clarke
Kristina Hamilton
Frank Rehwaldt
Stars
Armand Assante
Jerry Springer
Roy Scheider
Justine Mitchell
Length
98 minutes
Distributor
Georgia Films
Cinema
12th September 2003
Country
USA
Genre
Comedy
Drama


"Watch, vote and execute... all in the name of justice," reads the tagline of this thriller about a reality TV show that lets the viewing public play the jury in a real life murder trial. Chances are that if the makers of this tosh were in the dock themselves, whole auditoriums of disgruntled cinemagoers would vote to pull the switch and watch 'em fry.

The set-up of this not-as-clever-as-it-thinks-it-is satire is a dumbed-down disaster: take one accused murderer, put him in the dock on TV, and let the viewing public decide whether he's guilty or innocent.

Preparing to save the first victim, ahem, defendant is defence attorney Sam Patterson (Armand Assante). His counterpart is sharp-dressing prosecutor Jessica Landers (Justine Mitchell), who hopes to convince the audience that the man in the dock is guilty enough to die for his crimes.

With a $19.99 pay-per-view execution ready to go live, it's easy to guess what the verdict has to be.

What follows is yet another hackneyed warning about the dangers of Reality TV. It comes complete with a pantomime villain (Springer's cigar-chomping svengali), and concluding pledge of allegiance to the Star Spangled Banner - just so that no one takes the digs at America's legal system too seriously.

When Springer's not chomping cigars or scenery, Roy Scheider has a wheel-on role on as a state governor - a performance bad enough to suggest that someone needs to take better care of his medication.

Meanwhile Armand Assante proves to be a leading man who's labouring under the misapprehension that he's been hired as a character actor, growling his way through the risible script like the Rocky Balboa of defence attorneys: "You hang in there, you hear me!"

If this had been released five years ago, it might've seemed vaguely topical. Still no less ridiculous, though.







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