A Time to Kill (1996 film)
A Time to Kill is a 1996 American crime drama film based on John Grisham's 1989 novel. Sandra Bullock, Samuel L. Jackson, Matthew McConaughey, and Kevin Spacey star, with Oliver Platt, Ashley Judd, Kiefer and Donald Sutherland, and Patrick McGoohan appearing in supporting roles. Set in Mississippi, the film involves the rape of a young girl, the arrest of the rapists, their subsequent murder by the girl's father, and the father's trial for murder. The film was a critical and commercial success, making $152 million at the worldwide box office. It is the second of two films based on Grisham's novels directed by Joel Schumacher, with the other being The Client released two years prior.
|A Time to Kill|
Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Joel Schumacher|
|Screenplay by||Akiva Goldsman|
|Based on||A Time to Kill|
by John Grisham
|Music by||Elliot Goldenthal|
|Cinematography||Peter Menzies Jr.|
|Edited by||William Steinkamp|
|Distributed by||Warner Bros.|
|Box office||$152 million|
In the town of Canton, Mississippi, ten-year-old African American Tonya Hailey (Rae'Ven Larrymore Kelly) is abducted, raped, and beaten by two local white men, Billy Ray Cobb (Nicky Katt) and Pete Willard (Doug Hutchison). The duo dump her in a nearby river after a failed attempt to hang her. Tonya survives, and the two men are arrested by Sheriff Ozzie Walls (Charles S. Dutton).
Tonya's father, Carl Lee Hailey (Samuel L. Jackson), contacts Jake Brigance (Matthew McConaughey), a white lawyer who previously defended his brother. Brigance admits the possibility that the rapists will walk free. Carl Lee goes to the county courthouse and opens fire with an automatic rifle, killing both rapists and unintentionally injuring Deputy Dwayne Looney (Chris Cooper) with a ricochet, whose leg is later amputated. Carl Lee is arrested and Brigance agrees to defend him.
The rape and subsequent revenge killing gain national media attention. The district attorney, Rufus Buckley (Kevin Spacey), decides to seek the death penalty, and presiding Judge Omar Noose (Patrick McGoohan) denies Brigance a change of venue to a more ethnically-diverse county, meaning that Carl Lee will have an all-white jury. Brigance seeks help from his defense team: law student Ellen Roark (Sandra Bullock), close friend Harry Rex Vonner (Oliver Platt), and former mentor and longtime activist Lucien Wilbanks (Donald Sutherland), a once-great civil rights lawyer. Meanwhile, Billy Ray's brother, Freddie Lee Cobb (Kiefer Sutherland), plans to avenge his brother's death by joining and enlisting the help of the Mississippi branch of the Ku Klux Klan and its Grand Dragon, Stump Sisson (Kurtwood Smith).
On the first day of the trial, the Klan rallies, only to be outnumbered by counter-protesters consisting of the area's black and multiracial residents, as well as whites who support Carl Lee. The protest erupts into a violent riot that results in dozens of injuries and the death of Stump Sisson. The Klan also begins to target Brigance, assaulting his elderly secretary and her husband, who dies of a heart attack brought on by the assault. They also burn a cross on his lawn and threaten his wife and daughter. When Brigance refuses to back down, Cobb kidnaps and assaults Roark. The Klan then increases their attacks, including burning Brigance's house.
Dispirited, Brigance tells Carl Lee that there is little hope for an acquittal. Carl Lee replies that he had chosen him as an attorney because even a racist jury would listen to a white man; as "one of the bad guys," he has an influence that a black man will never have. During closing arguments, a deeply-shaken Brigance tells the jury to close their eyes and listen to a story. He describes, in slow and painful detail, the entire ordeal of Tonya. Brigance then asks the jury, in his final comment, to "now imagine she's white."
After deliberation, a black child runs out of the courthouse and screams, "He's innocent!" Jubilation ensues amongst the supporters outside. The Klan members, enraged, begin yelling in anger. Meanwhile, Sheriff Walls arrests Freddie Lee for his crimes, as well as a corrupt deputy who is also a member of the Klan and is standing next to the sheriff.
Brigance brings his wife and daughter to a family cookout at Carl Lee's house to celebrate his freedom.
- Samuel L. Jackson as Carl Lee Hailey
- Matthew McConaughey as Jake Brigance
- Kevin Spacey as Rufus Buckley
- Sandra Bullock as Ellen Roark
- Brenda Fricker as Ethel Twitty
- Oliver Platt as Harry Rex Vonner
- Charles S. Dutton as Sheriff Ozzie Walls
- Ashley Judd as Carla Brigance
- Patrick McGoohan as Judge Omar Noose
- Kiefer Sutherland as Freddie Lee Cobb
- Donald Sutherland as Lucien Wilbanks
- John Diehl as Tim Nunley
- Doug Hutchison as James Louis "Pete" Willard
- Nicky Katt as Billy Ray Cobb
- Chris Cooper as Deputy Sheriff Dwayne Looney
- Anthony Heald as Dr. Wilbert Rodeheaver
- Kurtwood Smith as Stump Sisson
- Tonea Stewart as Gwen Hailey
- Rae'Ven Larrymore Kelly as Tonya Hailey
- M. Emmet Walsh as Dr. Willard Tyrell Bass
- David U. Hodges as Bailiff
Box office performanceEdit
According to Boxofficemojo.com, the movie performed well, earning over $108 million domestically.
The film received mostly positive reviews from critics, earning a 66% "Fresh" rating on Rotten Tomatoes, based on 53 reviews, a critical consensus reading: "Overlong and superficial, A Time to Kill nonetheless succeeds on the strength of its skillful craftsmanship and top-notch performances". It has a score of 54 out of 100 on Metacritic, based on 21 reviews.
Roger Ebert gave the film three stars out of four, saying: "I was absorbed by A Time to Kill, and found the performances strong and convincing," and added that "this is the best of the film versions of Grisham novels, I think, and it has been directed with skill by Joel Schumacher."
The film was not without its detractors, however. Anthony Puccinelli gave the film one star, calling it "worthless" and remarking: "A Time to Kill argues for vigilantism but disguises its message by making the vigilante black, allowing viewers to think their blood lust and thirst for revenge is actually empathy for the oppressed." Peter Travers felt that "they [Schumacher and screenwriter Akiva Goldsman] cram[med] in too much," adding, "This distracts from the heart of the picture, which is in the bond between Carl Lee (the brilliant [Samuel L.] Jackson is quietly devastating) and Jake, a husband and father who knows he, too, would have shot anyone who raped his little girl." Gene Siskel remarked it was "An overwrought, contrived courtroom thriller", "cornball" and concluded "This story has been recycled out of countless better movies."
Grisham enjoyed the film, remarking: "When all was said and done I was happy with it, happy we were able to find a kid like Matthew McConaughey. It wasn't a great movie, but it was a good one."
Reaction in FranceEdit
In France, the film has been the subject of controversy. Critics have accused the movie of making an apology for the death penalty and right of self-defense. A question mark was added at the end of the title ("Le Droit de tuer ?"/"The Right to Kill ?") so as not to shock the audience. Amnesty International France uses the word "disturbing" when referring to the film in one of its documents. Les Inrockuptibles described the film as "nauseating", "stinking", almost "fascist", with an "ultra-populist" script that makes one want to "vomit". Libération criticized the script, calling it "extremely dirty": the movie, says the newspaper, "militates in favour of the black cause only to legitimize, after many plot buckles (resurrection of the Ku Klux Klan, the deceits of court, threats of [m]any kinds) the mentally ill gesture of the avenging father". According to Libération, the movie "justifies the indefensible" with a "dripping sentimentalism".
- Golden Globe – Best Supporting Actor – Samuel L. Jackson – Nominated
- NAACP Image Award – Outstanding Motion Picture – Won
- NAACP Image Award – Best Supporting Actor in a film – Samuel L. Jackson – Nominated
- Blockbuster Entertainment Award – Favorite Actress – Suspense – Sandra Bullock – Won
- MTV Movie Awards – Best Female Performance – Sandra Bullock – Nominated
- MTV Movie Awards – Best Breakthrough Performance – Matthew McConaughey – Won
- Razzie Award – Worst Written Film Grossing Over $100 Million – Akiva Goldsman – Nominated
- Stinkers Bad Movie Awards – Worst Supporting Actress – Brenda Fricker – Nominated
This section needs additional citations for verification. (April 2013) (Learn how and when to remove this template message)
|A Time to Kill|
|Soundtrack album by |
|Released||August 20, 1996|
|Genre||Classical, avant-garde, modernist|
|Elliot Goldenthal chronology|
- "Defile and Lament" – 2:33
- "Consolation" – 2:23
- "Justice Wheel" – 0:46
- "Pavane for Solace" – 2:29
- "Abduction" – 2:58
- "An Asurrendering" – 1:35
- "Pavane for Loss" – 1:07
- "Take My Hand, Precious Lord" / "Retribution" by The Jones Sisters – 6:50
- "Torch and Hood" – 2:02
- "Pressing Judgement" – 1:29
- "White Sheet" – 2:38
- "Pavane for Solace" (piano solo) – 2:06
- "Verdict Fanfare" (For Aaron) – 4:03
- "Take My Hand, Precious Lord" by Cissy Houston – 4:03
- Music composed by Elliot Goldenthal (except 8 and 14)
- Music produced by Matthias Gohl
- Orchestrated by Robert Elhai and Elliot Goldenthal
- Conducted by Jonathan Sheffer
- Recorded and mixed by Joel Iwataki
- Electronic music produced by Richard Martinez
- Additional orchestrations by Deniz Hughes
- "A Time to Kill – Box Office Data". The Numbers. Retrieved 8 August 2011.
- "A Time to Kill (1996) - Box Office Mojo". boxofficemojo.com.
- "A Time to Kill".
- "A Time to Kill".
- "A Time To Kill". Chicago Sun-Times.
- "Chicago Reader". Chicago Reader.
- "Movie Reviews and Ratings from Peter Travers | Rolling Stone Movies". Rolling Stone. Retrieved 2013-12-12.
- "John Grisham issues judgment on ALL his novels".
- "Le Droit de tuer ?".
- A time to kill – Cinémathèque française Archived July 22, 2010, at the Wayback Machine
- "Archived copy" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 2004-06-16. Retrieved 2010-04-06.CS1 maint: Archived copy as title (link)[failed verification]
- Les Inrocks : Le Droit de tuer ? Archived 2010-07-04 at the Wayback Machine
- "CINEMA. Sur fond de conflit racial et d'autodéfense, un extrêmement scabreux. Joel Schumacher filme l'injustifiable. Le droit de tuer? de Joel Schumacher avec Matthew McConaughey, Sandra Bullock, Samuel L. Jackson, Kevin Spacey".
- A Time to Kill at AllMusic