You know, when you have already watched 12 Angry Men and The Verdict, and then come across a third courtroom drama made by the legendary Sydney Lumet, you'd think the probability of you ending up describing the third film as 'light-hearted' and 'upbeat' is seriously far-fetched.
But legends are legends for a reason, are they not?
And Lumet shows exactly that with his decision of presenting a courtroom drama based on the longest running mafia trial in US history, in quite the light-hearted and upbeat style.
So, on one hand you are made aware that all twenty of the defendants occupying the courtroom are hardcore gangsters no doubt, being tried on multiple counts. They are lowlifes; people who have chosen to lead a life outside the law to be able to lead parallely a life of extravagance and excess. They are into drug distribution, gambling, extortion, and- as an inevitable consequence- murder.
But, on the other, you are also made to see them as bumbling idiots who cannot help themselves from engaging in stupid banter. Men who are just that- men.
And in no time at all you find yourself rooting for them.
Or more specifically, you find yourself rooting for one of them- Jack Dinorsio, the real-life gangster who chose to defend himself in this case instead of hiring a lawyer.
Jack is portrayed as anything but the quintessial mafia man. He does not talk tough, has a sense of humour and- most importantly- considers almost every person he meets as his friend.
'I'm a gagster, not a gangster' he declares to the jury in the opening argument in a manner that may not win him a legal battle, but will certainly disarm any human being. And he continues to do exactly that through the course of the trial- he disarms everyone, including you, the viewer.
This is inarguably Vin Diesel's best performance.
Yes, you have heard it right.
Diesel- the same Diesel who now keeps coming back faster and more furious every year without the need for it, the same Diesel who goes 'One last time' every time he comes back but then again comes back the next fucking year and says 'One last time' one more time as if the last time wasn’t enough for him to understand that people are sick and tired of repetitive shit and want it coming neither fast nor furious anymore, yes, THAT Diesel- can act. (And how!)
Of course, it must've helped that he was in Lumet's more-than-capable hands, but one must give credit where it is due and I must say, Diesel carries the film through till the very end with his sheer charisma.
Without that, I feel this would have been more underwhelming than entertaining.
Four out of five.
Also, almost forgot to mention how Peter Dinklage, with this film. proves yet again that he is one fine actor.
Catch Trailer here: