Paramount // 2001 // 90 Minutes // Rated PG-13
Reviewed by Judge David Johnson // August 3rd, 2004
Murder is in the cards.
Despite what the tagline may say, this movie has nothing to do with cards or card playing or gambling or poker or anything.
The movie opens with a crime scene. Three Vietnamese youths have been brutally murdered. Each body has a bloody playing card pinned to them (ah, I get it..."murder is in the cards!"). Immediately, a suspect is taken into custody: Stephen Leeds (John Doman), a Vietnam veteran suspected of potential emotional instability. But the clincher for the prosecution is the violent history Leeds's wife, Josie (Debrah Farentino), had with the murder victims. She had been mugged and beaten by the trio, and when they were acquitted, Stephen had pledged vengeance.
Enter Leeds's friend Matthew Hope (Brian Dennehy), a lawyer and a fellow veteran. Hope at first encourages his buddy to use his considerable wealth to hire an expensive lawyer, but under Leeds' pleas, he eventually relents to being his counsel.
Along with his daughter and a scrappy private investigator, Hope and company begin digging around for the truth behind the killings. Yet several impasses stand in their way. Though Leeds professes his innocence, the prosecution, headed up by a hotshot lawyer from New York, has produced verifiable witnesses that destroy Leeds' alibi.
As the mystery deepens, Hope must contend with the possibility of a more dangerous threat, as murder plagues his investigation.
This made-for-television movie is a surprisingly well-done piece of mystery-solving wackiness. It's certainly not a heavy-hitting, in-your-face, breaking-new-ground movie, but for what it is and what it sets out to accomplish, Three Blind Mice succeeds in becoming a better-than-mediocre flick, for straight-to-network and even for straight-to-video standards.
Anchored by interesting characters, the movie did well to hold my interest throughout. Dennehy's Hope is the good guy, who can be aggressive and no-nonsense when he needs to be, and flat-out combative if the situation requires it. His cohorts -- daughter and P.I. -- are quirky and bring some neat dynamics to Hope's little hometown law firm.
But a mystery movie like this is only as good as the mystery. Based on Ed McBain's book, the flick delivers a fairly involving whodunit, and even managed to surprise me with the big reveals.
Again, not earth-shattering stuff, this, but for a rainy afternoon, you could probably do worse.
Beyond the feature, everything else is sub-mediocre. The full-frame transfer is understandable considering it's the original aspect ratio, but that doesn't mean I have to like it. Not much happens that would make anything above a stereo audio mix necessary, and Paramount obviously recognized that. So that's what you get. No bonuses for you.
It's like a super-sized episode of The Practice, without the courtroom or Dylan McDermott. Well, maybe that analogy sucks. Look, it's a half-decent offering that doesn't overwhelm nor underwhelm.
Eh, not guilty I guess. (Is it time for lunch recess yet?)
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Scales of Justice
* Full Frame
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
Running Time: 90 Minutes
Release Year: 2001
MPAA Rating: Rated PG-13