Merrick doesn't like spiders anymore...
Here's Massawyrm with a review of FIND ME GUILTY. Can the great Sidney Lumet actually make Vin Diesel act? Apparently so!
Hola all. Massawyrm here. Sidney Lumet is an honest to god legend. I know many of you probably clicked on this story to hear about Vin Diesel, but we’ll get to Vin in a moment. First, let’s talk about the genius of Sidney Lumet. Here’s a name that simply doesn’t resonate with a lot of people. He’s old school Hollywood and sadly, after just over two decades of mediocre and forgettable films, he’s fallen somewhat by the wayside. With his last great films being the 1982 one-two punch of Deathtrap and The Verdict, entire generations have grown up without Lumet being a member of their ‘great directors’ pantheon. This is the guy who directed 12 Angry Men - The original one. Fail Safe. Serpico. Network. Dog Day Afternoon. The Wiz. In short, he’s the guy who inspired the guys who inspire us. Just try and find a bank robbery movie in this day and age that doesn’t reference Dog Day Afternoon. Just try and find a film about television as relevant and poignant, even in this day and age, as Network. Hell, just try and find an adaptation as warped and deliciously surreal as The Wiz. It’s tough. Because Sidney Lumet is the man.
Vin Diesel is a guy who could be a legend, but is at a very precarious point in his career right now. After geek favorites The Iron Giant and Pitch Black propelled him to cult fame, a series of testosterone driven action flicks made him a star. But America is finicky. We love our action heroes…but only for a limited time. Chuck Norris, Jean Claude Van Damme, Steven Segal, Sylvester Stallone – all guys who became HUGE action successes only to almost overnight become jokes, relegated to direct to video hell. With a series of poorly received films like the long delayed and ultimately destroyed in reshoots ‘A Man Apart’, the much maligned ‘Chronicles of Riddick’ and the very successful but oft mocked ‘The Pacifier’ – along with rumors that in the politest of terms he was hard to work with - Diesel seemed headed down the same road as many of his predecessors. With his star on the verge of completely waning, Vin is a guy in desperate need of reinvention.
Now take the story of Giacomo 'Fat Jack' (Jackie) DiNorscio, a gangster and lowlife drug dealer indicted by the federal government on RICO charges along with 19 of his associates in what was to become an infamous case. Feeling he’d been screwed by his previous attorney and being sent up for 30 years on drug charges, Jackie decided he had nothing to lose and would defend himself against one of the biggest legal offences of all time. The problem with telling his story, however, is that it requires you to forget, or just plain completely ignore, that these 20 guys…are, well, bad dudes. Not just movie bad. Real life bad guys. Killers, thugs, drug dealers. And the government set out to shut down this family for good. But we’re not watching the story of courageous government prosecutors working for the good of all. This is a story of a smart ass, ot-nay oo-tay ight-bray, made man trying to joke his way out of a life sentence on racketeering charges.
So with a brilliant, but nearly forgotten director over two decades away from his last great work, an action star in need of reinvention, the story of a real life gangster who never denies being what he is and no studio distributing it – just how good can Find Me Guilty be? As it turns out, pretty damned fine indeed. First of all, under Lumet’s direction, Find Me Guilty has a very classic look to it. The shot structure, look and all around feel of the film is similar to his work of the past rather than the slick, high gloss cinematography of today. And while this might be jarring to some, I loved the retro feel of it. And while the film is a comedy, it never resorts to the slapstick, Three Stooges style humor you’d expect from a mobster comedy. It’s entirely character driven laughs, that while certainly not laugh a minute, builds slowly to powerful guffaws. There is zero lame or cheap humor to be found here and is wholly refreshing and entirely its own thing.
But the real story here is Vin Diesel…with hair. Having destroyed his trademark physique for the role and forsaking the shaved skull look that made him famous, Diesel takes on the appearance of an aging, not so pretty mobster well past his prime. And then he completely disappears into the role. For years people have talked about his theatre background and wondered aloud if had any range at all outside of the gravel voiced badass we’ve all grown accustomed to. Here, Vin absolutely answers that question with a resounding yes, turning in a performance that makes you completely forget you’re watching Vin Diesel at all. He’s funny, sleazy, grimy and a bit of a putz. But a completely lovable putz. ‘Jackie’ DiNorscio is a guy who everybody loves (they don’t actually) who in turn loves everybody (he does) and has a heart that appears to be many sizes larger than his brain. And Vin sells every single moment. He makes you pull and root for a guy you simply aren’t supposed to pull and root for. Jackie DiNorscio is a scumbag, a self-admitted scumbag, and yet you feel for him and pray that he gets off the hook. And Vin accomplishes this entirely through his portrayal.
What I really liked about the movie was how careful it was not to make the prosecutors out to be the bad guys. You certainly don’t grow to like them, but they’re not bad guys. You just identify with Jackie so much that you want to see them fail. And this is accomplished completely with the charisma Diesel brings to the role. This is really a big step forward for him, a film that’s going to shut some people up and could begin a massive turnaround in Diesel’s career as a whole – that is if he keeps choosing more complicated roles like this.
Along with Diesel are two other standout performances. Ron Silver who has really been coming into his own over the last few years. Having shed off the B movie roles for which he was most known in the 90’s, Silver has become known for taking character roles in smarter pieces like his recurring role on the West Wing. Here he plays the judge who at first has to reel in Jackie, then finds himself taken by him. Peter Dinklage backs this up as the only defense attorney that seems to care about Jackie outside of fear for his own client. What really stands out about this role is that Lumet allows Dinklage to play the role without there ever being a single joke about him being a midget. I mean, he clearly is, it’s not like they ignore the fact entirely, but it’s never even mentioned – and it allows Dinklage to display his talent without the emotion being tied to his height. Aside from Jackie, he’s the single most endearing character in the film.
If the film has one flaw, it’s that it moves a bit slow at times and runs a little long. For those of you like me who get caught up in the story and its characters, this won’t bother you at all. Others, especially those who get easily bothered by slowdowns in pacing will find it long, but certainly not boring.
All in all, this is a satisfyingly sweet little comedy that showcases quite a bit of talent. Lumet is back in top form, Diesel is going to change more than a few minds and Silver and Dinklage each have another fine performence to add to their growing resumes. Recommended for anyone looking for some good laughs from a mature comedy and HIGHLY recommended for Vin Diesel fans who have been anxiously waiting for him to take on something meatier. Find Me Guilty is currently in limited release nationwide and opens on more screens this weekend.
Until next time friends, smoke ‘em if ya got ‘em. I know I will.
Hey Melkor, make a Save Vs. Career Implosion and send your roll here.