PlotAs the film starts, mobster Giacomo “Jackie” DiNorscio (Vin Diesel) finds himself lying in bed as his friend and cousin marches into the room and shoots him. Jackie doesn’t die. When he doesn’t, his cousin runs to the government and turns informant against him! The United States Attorney now wants Jackie to rat out his friends and family as well, or he will be charged with enough racketeering crimes to put him away forever. He refuses and he, and all of his friends and family, find themselves charged with a vast array of crimes.
This decision leads to a bitter and funny courtroom battle of wills between Jackie, who doesn’t always help his own case, the district attorney (Linus Roache), and the frustrated co-defendants who think Jackie is dooming them all. Presiding over this circus is Judge Sidney Finestein (Ron Silver). And for the next 21 months, the longest trial in American history plays out in this manner.
Why This Film WorkedFind Me Guilty was a rather enjoyable film. It more than held my interest, it made me want to know what happened next. You even come to like and/or respect certain characters. Vin Diesel slowly but surely wins you over, as does Peter Dinklage as the leader of the defendants. Ron Silver too plays a character you come to respect. I can’t think of the last recent film I saw where I liked or cared about or respected three different characters.
As an aside, the witnesses against Jackie and the others are very typical of what you find in court – losers and criminals who have been bought off by the government, sloppy criminal investigators, and people who let their bias influence their opinions. But more importantly, this film doesn’t show each being destroyed. Instead, you get what you normally get in court, one side presenting the evidence, the other side casting doubt on the witnesses, and everyone needing to wait to see what the jury made of the exchange.
So how does this film compare to other legal dramas? I still see Presumed Innocent as the high watermark, but this film has a similar feel to it. This film is much more realistic than anything Grisham has done. It’s not as funny as My Cousin Vinny, but it’s not meant to be – though it is funny at times. The one problem I would say with this film is that it has a curious lack of high stakes because Jackie seems to like prison – he’s already in jail on a drug charge. So you never reach an ultra high-tension moment because little changes for Jackie if he loses. But the film still has numerous solid dramatic moments, and you do want to see Jackie win.