Lionsgate // 2004 // 172 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Mitchell Hattaway (Retired) // February 2nd, 2005
Justice has a second chance.
This miniseries adaptation of Scott Turow's novel tells the tale of court-appointed attorney Arthur Raven (William H. Macy, Fargo) and his eleventh hour attempts to save the life of Romeo "Squirrel" Gandolph (Glenn Plummer, Speed), a two-bit criminal who sits on death row for a triple murder -- a crime to which Gandolph confessed seven years earlier but now says he did not commit. Fighting Raven at every turn are homicide detective Larry Starczek (Tom Selleck, Quigley Down Under), the cop who headed up the original murder investigation, and Chief Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Muriel Wynn (Monica Potter, Along Came a Spider), who is in the middle of a campaign for her retiring boss's job. Raven seemingly catches a break when Erno Erdai (James Rebhorn, The Talented Mr. Ripley) confesses to the crime and claims to have helped frame Gandolph, but, as is the case in any Turow story, things aren't always what they seem. Also drawn into the proceedings are Gillian Sullivan (Felicity Huffman, Magnolia), the judge who presided over Gandloph's trial but has since been removed from the bench for accepting bribes, and Collins Farwell (Shemar Moore, The Brothers), the former convict who first implicated Gandolph in the murders. (That's as far as I'll go with any discussion of the plot, as revealing anything else would be a crime.)
I'm a big fan of Scott Turow's novels, and I finished reading Reversible Errors not long before I saw the initial broadcast of this miniseries, so I was a bit surprised to find myself so thoroughly engrossed in this adaptation. I pretty much knew what to expect, but this miniseries is so skillfully written and acted that my familiarity with the twists and turns in the story didn't matter. (There are, of course, a few minor changes to the story: Both Raven's sister and assistant are missing, and Turow's back-and-forth approach to the plot's timeline has been dropped in favor of a more linear approach.) Director Mike Robe (who helmed the 1991 miniseries adaptation of Turow's The Burden of Proof) and writer Alan Sharp (Rob Roy, Night Moves) do a very good job balancing the characters and suspense (good thing, since these are Turow's strengths), and they're aided by an outstanding cast. Selleck and Potter (whose resemblance to Julia Roberts is almost scary) are extremely good together, and Macy and Huffman are even better together (although, of course, they have a head start on their chemistry -- they're married). The supporting cast, especially Rebhorn, is also very good, and there's a nice (albeit too brief) scenery chewing turn by Ron Canada (The Human Stain) as wily, opportunistic lawyer Aires Jackson.
Okay, we've been over the good, so let's get to the bad. Lions Gate's transfer is a disappointment. The visual quality is nominally better than that of the original broadcast -- nominally. There's an intentionally cold, drab look to the miniseries (Turow's fictional Kindle County is a thinly veiled Cook County, Illinois), and that's nicely conveyed, but at times (a few too many times) I thought I was watching a standard television broadcast. (Oddly enough, the picture quality improves somewhat during the latter half, but not enough to compensate for the problems in the first half.) The audio options easily trump the video presentation; both the Dolby Stereo and Dolby 5.1 options are nicely done, and the 5.1 track contains a surprising amount of surround activity (although much of it consists of the sounds of slamming doors). The only bonus feature is a commentary by director Mike Robe and novelist Scott Turow; there's some good stuff in the commentary (particularly regarding some of the edits Robe was forced to make following the nonsense over Janet Jackson's "wardrobe malfunction"), but Turow spends a little too much time patting Robe on the back.
I quite enjoyed Reversible Errors during this second viewing. This is a good story -- well-told, well-acted, and, video issues aside, highly recommended.
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Scales of Justice
* Full Frame
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
Running Time: 172 Minutes
Release Year: 2004
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* Commentary with Director Mike Robe and Novelist Scott Turow