Find Me Guilty (2006) / Drama-Comedy

MPAA Rated: R for language, drug references,, some violence and sexual references
Running Time: 125 min.

Cast: Vin Diesel, Ron Silver, Linus Roache, Peter Dinklage, Alex Rocco, Raul Esparza, Richard Portnow, Annabella Sciorra, Robert Stanton, Marcia Dean Stiles, Domenick Lombardozzi,
Director: Sidney Lumet
Screenplay: Sidney Lumet, T.J. Mancini, Robert J. McCrea
Review published July 1, 2006

Based on one of the longest trials in US history, Find Me Guilty tells the story of one of the defendants, Giacomo "Jack" DiNorscio (Diesel, The Pacifier), a small time member of a New Jersey crime family already facing 30 years for a drug charge.  The case was brought about by Rudy Giuliani's pursuit of organized crime under existing RICO (Racketeering Influenced and Corrupt Organizations) laws, with the intent to proclaim Mafia families as conspirators engaged in a concerted effort to continuously break the federal laws. Jackie is offered a reduced sentence for cooperation with the prosecuting attorney, which he soundly rejects, as he vows to never rat out on his family and friends  In a controversial move, Jack also refuses to have representation in the trial, since his last attorney didn't seem to help much, and without any prior legal experience (save for being a defendant several times), he proceeds to question witnesses and become a distraction in the courtroom through his uncouth behavior.

Director Sidney Lumet (Night Falls on Manhattan, Network) returns to the genre that made him a director to watch from his very first movie, 12 Angry Men, with another engaging courtroom drama.  His last foray in the genre scored him Best Director and Best Picture nominations at the Academy Awards, in 1982's gripping The Verdict.  Lumet is a master of the craft of crime films, especially those that seek to explore that grey area where good and evil collide.  In the world of Lumet, there is no good or evil, just varying shades based on perspective.  As with 12 Angry Men's main theme, Lumet challenges our perception of what a bad guy is, refusing to condemn the man before we get to know him and see different sides that we wouldn't have guessed from our initial impulse. 

Find Me Guilty is about a criminal to be sure, but with a decidedly softer approach, where we come away liking the defendant, and even understanding his motivations to continue his life of crime.  I suppose this is the most disturbing aspect of the film for me, as I find many of the acts that DiNorscio has committed in his life to be reprehensible, and yet, as presented in the film, I find myself faced with ambiguity as to how I feel about him as a person.  Does he deserve to be in prison?  If he does the crime, he should do the time, regardless of how jocular he might be about it all. 

The real question is, should someone go to jail for being part of a family, even if nearly every member of that family is also involved in crime, often together?  That's the question for the jurors of the case to decide in this case.  While at the end of the film, we're given a verdict, we really haven't been shown enough evidence with which we, the movie audience, can draw our own conclusions.  As the verdict is read, it really doesn't matter to one way or another as to whether or not the defendants in the case are found guilty of violating RICO, as they are all probably guilty of many crimes that never came before the court, some by their own admission. 

Despite watching for over two hours, I'm at a loss as to what the film is really supposed to be about, as the story doesn't appear to have an overriding concern to make a main point.  Perhaps it has no point.  What I can say with certainty is that Find Me Guilty is an entertaining viewing, sometimes funny, sometimes tragic, with a decent Vin Diesel performance that will have you coming away thinking that he might be able to continue his career as an actor once his penchant for neanderthal action vehicle wears thin.  The same redemptive judgment can also be made about a surprisingly terrific Ron Silver (Ali, Reversal of Fortune), once an Academy Award caliber actor that has been relegated to made-for-TV or straight-to-video fare for the last decade or so, most of them quite bad. 

Most of the drama takes place in the courtroom, or within DiNorcsio's jail cell, so don't expect any action or plentiful locale changes to keep you reeled in.  If you love movies about the justice system or the operations of mob families, Find Me Guilty delivers a charismatic and thoughtful couple of hours that, while not really making you feel much of anything once the final verdict is reached, does at least consistently deliver the laughs and intrigue you may not be expecting from a Vin Diesel vehicle.

 Qwipster's rating:

2006 Vince Leo