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This Review Reveals Minor Details About the Plot.

It's a Duty

Trial by Jury on IMDb

Plot Overview

Mob boss Rusty Pirone (Armand Assante)'s uncle Johnny “Red” Verona (Joe Santos) gets caught in a homo­sexual assig­nation allowing prose­cutor Daniel Graham (Gabriel Byrne) to pressure him to be a witness against Rusty in “the biggest g.d. prose­cution we ever pushed out of this office.” Rusty and Graham also hold an intense personal animosity towards each other, both having come from Brooklyn but having gone separate ways. Rusty's muscle Tommy Vesey (William Hurt) is unable to swing the jury as there's nothing they can be black­mailed with and an out­right bribe would be too conspicuous. So they go to plan ‘B’.

rooster and chickJuror number 4 is Westside resident Valerie Alston (Joanne Whalley-Kilmer) a “country girl” who owns Valiant Lady vintage clothing store in the city. She's a divorcee raising her boy Robbie (Bryan Shilowich) all by her­self. Although serving on a jury in a major case would be most incon­venient, she refuses to ask for exemption. She's civically virtuous to a fault, but when her boy's life is threatened (“Oh Robbie, I don't know what I'd do with­out you,”) she capitulates using her feminine wiles & some cute sophistry to hang the jury.

sleeping womanThe prosecutor smells a rat but has no proof of jury tampering. Rusty being a nervous guy takes care of his problems by killing them off and/or by raping the pretty ones. When he sees Graham nosing around Valerie, he reverts to his old ways. So much for gratitude.


Davie County Courthouse entrance

The cinematographer gives us some lingering shots of the court­house façade with its pillars and epigraph: The administration of justice is the firmest pillar of good government. The inside decor also evokes a sense of respect.

In the courtroom the defendant is nattily dressed (“Look at that suit!”) Juror #4 is always the best-dressed woman in the place, as is her store well provisioned with pristine vintage wear, and her home reflects her good tastes (“I collect things from the 40's and 50's.”) I took notice and I'm a guy.

Play ballSports are well-represented in this movie. Kids play base­ball in Central Park next to the soccer pitch. The prosecutor tosses a base­ball around in his office, and the inmates watch base­ball on TV. Robbie develops his basket­ball game while visiting his grand­father Emmett (Stuart Whitman) in the country. His home sport is soccer and he's got a soccer ball in his room.

Oops!Also in his room is a toy speaker on the floor, a multi-band radio on a shelf, and a small TV set next to the door—there's one in the living room, too. These speak of another's interest in electronics, doting on him. We find the culprit when Valerie pulls in at her father's country home. There's a fifty foot tower in the back­yard with a directional TV antenna on top. He lives in a fringe reception area, so when he wants to, say, watch the game, he'll change to the right channel … and get snow. Then he'll dial in the direction on his control, the motor on top of the tower will grind around until the antenna's pointed in the right direction, and voilà, there's the picture, crystal clear.

This so reminds us of, (Prov. 30:33) “Surely the churning of milk bringeth forth butter, and the wringing of the nose bringeth forth blood: so the forcing of wrath bringeth forth strife.” The milk in the tub remains a liquid until one churns it around, then it suddenly turns to another state, solid. So a peaceful person can change to one of strife if you put in the effort to change her around.

MadonnaGoody-two-shoes Valerie (“She's a ditz”) is “the sweet­heart of Sigma Chi.” During voir dire some­one draws a halo above her head. But after the mob takes her on a turn around the block, she's different.

Valerie: “Something happened to me in that jury room. I lied to people. I used them, played on their weakness, flirted when I had to, played the martyr, the weak little woman.”

Tommy Vesey: “It's over. Every­thing is back to normal.”

Valerie: “No, it's not. You showed me a part of myself I never knew existed. I'll never be the same. You changed me, Vesey.”

The other half of that proverb has to do with, “the wringing of the nose bringeth forth blood: so the forcing of wrath bringeth forth strife.” In this movie a signature assassination with an ice pick brings a dribble of blood from the vic's mouth. This happens while there's a TV cop show playing in the back­ground: “How do you like that, he slugged me. There's an iron hook attached to his fore­arm and that's his weapon. I saw it and I felt it.” The detectives use their investigative powers to suss out the phone number the hooked crook dialled: “Look at those scratches. They're brand new, aren't they?” Put scratches in the phone dial, it's marked; put an ice pick in the spinal column it's kaput. The nose is also a critical place from which to draw blood. Our former nice lady could handle so much incon­venience, but she can be pressed too far. She declaims, “The police tell you that he'll reach out from beyond the grave and kill your son. You don't think about right or wrong, you only think about survival. You do what you have to do.” So much for halos and snow.

Production Values

” (1994) was directed by Heywood Gould. It was written by Heywood Gould and Jordan Katz. It stars Gabriel Byrne, Armand Assante, Joanne Whalley-Kilmer and William Hurt. Whalley the lead did a worthy job portraying a juror in an impossible situation. Her dead­pan delivery in places was explained in the script as her need to give nothing away. She's a little less convincing as the bad girl at the end. Hurt scores playing against type as a dirty cop. The movie had a great supporting cast, many of them a rogues' gallery of mob faces we've seen before. Kathleen Quinlan stood out as Wanda the “mutt” who efficiently killed with her pick but not with her face, try as she might.

MPAA rated it R for violence and language. It was filmed in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. Music by Terence Blanchard was particularly fitting. It's 1 hour 47 minutes long.

Review Conclusion w/a Christian's Recommendation

This was a classy, underworld motion picture the way they're supposed to be made. It featured implied threat more than cheap theatrics. The villains were movie-realistic, the out­come shocking. The woman had a business, her boy had a sport, and her dad had a dog. Her business suffered an inter­ruption, her boy got a vacation, and her dad had reception. Jury foreman Mr. Duffy (Graham Jarvis) resorted to martinis, the judge snuck stomache medicine, and Emmett mentioned his prior jury duty involving “Some guy [who] stole a back­hoe.” We're not in Kansas anymore, Toto.

Movie Ratings

Action factor: Decent action scenes. Suitability For Children: Not Suitable for Children of Any Age. Special effects: Average special effects. Video Occasion: Good Date Movie. Suspense: Keeps you on the edge of your seat. Overall movie rating: Five stars out of five.