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Case Number 00179

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The Confession (1999)

Sterling // 1999 // 114 Minutes // Rated R
Reviewed by Judge Margo Reasner (Retired) // November 12th, 1999

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All Rise...

Editor's Note

Our reviews of The Confession (2011) (published January 30th, 2012) and The Confession (1970) (Blu-ray) Criterion Collection (published June 19th, 2015) are also available.

The Charge

Trust no one.

Opening Statement

A rather grim exploration of the differences between right and wrong and man's laws versus God's laws. Solid performances and a bit of a mystery keep it moving forward as well as maintain interest.

The Evidence

Harry Fertig (Ben Kingsley, Gandhi, Bugsy, Death and the Maiden) and his wife Sara (Amy Irving, Carrie, The Competition, Crossing Delancey) are faced with trying to get medical attention for their son Stevie during the night in New York City. Their normal doctor is unavailable, so they rush their child to the emergency room where the medical personnel care more about the hospital rules and regulations than helping the sick. In total frustration, Harry confronts the nurse and the doctor and demands/begs for his son to receive medical attention. His pleas go unanswered, so they take a taxi and head for another local hospital. En route his son dies in his arms. Harry is a devoutly religious man (of the Jewish faith) and six weeks later feels compelled to avenge his son's death by killing three of the hospital personnel in cold blood. After this act, he feels that the right thing to do is to turn himself in to the police, which he does.

While this is going on, in another part of The City, Roy Bleakie (Alec Baldwin, Prelude to a Kiss, The Juror, The Edge, as well as producer for this film) is a high-powered, slick attorney who will stop at nothing to get his client set free. We see him blackmail his opposing counsel by having sexually explicit pictures sent to the man's house and office and we also see that he's having an affair with the presiding female judge. In fact, it appears that Roy is on his way to becoming district attorney given his ability to win high profile cases. Shortly after Harry murders the three hospital workers, Roy is approached by Jack Reynoble (Jay O. Sanders, Kiss the Girls, For Richer or Poorer), who owns the company that Harry is CFO for. Reynoble hires Roy to represent Harry with the idea in mind that Harry should spend the least amount of time in prison. Roy agrees to take this high-profile case that looks like a sure winner given the prevailing public sentiment that Harry was of unsound mind when he killed the hospital workers, given their contribution to the recent death of his son.

Everything looks like it's going to work out for the best for everyone until Roy and Harry actually meet for the first time. When this happens, Roy is shocked to hear that Harry feels that the most decent thing to do is to plead guilty and take his sentence without a fight. The rest of the film involves the struggle that these two men go through to arrive at a point that they can mutually agree upon. Roy believes that what's best for his client (and his political career) is for Harry to plead not guilty by reason of insanity, whereas Harry is determined to pay society for what he's done in order to atone for his sins in God's eyes. Each man searches through the facts of the case and their own souls to come up with an answer to what should be done. As you can imagine, the answers to these questions are complex and each viewer will rate the believability of the conclusions reached by their own moral yardstick. However, the journey through this film is an intense and at times grim one to make and every parent will understand Harry's feelings and the hopelessness that drives his actions.

The picture is presented in letterbox 1.85:1 aspect ratio, not enhanced for 16x9 TVs. However, the transfer rates high for non-enhanced material, as I hardly noticed any artifacting or shimmering on a widescreen set. There was the occasional dust spot however. The area that this DVD really shines in is the Extras. There are three commentary tracks, biographies and filmographies of cast and crew, a short featurette with Stan Goldman (legal expert and law professor that some will remember as a CNBC commentator for the O.J. Simpson trial), a photo gallery that shows how some of the sets looked during production, a short legal trivia game, a theatrical trailer for this movie, as well as for four other Sterling DVDs (including A Murder of Crows). There are also a couple of DVD ROM features that I wasn't able to try out (read or print the screenplay and access any scene in the movie directly from the screenplay). The menus were quite nicely done as well, with motion images from the movie.

The Rebuttal Witnesses

The most negative aspect of this film is the sound. It's done in Dolby Stereo Surround but it sounds like glorified mono. Granted, most of the audio is people talking and I could clearly make out what everyone was saying, but all the other sounds pretty much were blurred together, you never got the feeling that you were in the room with these people. It could easily be argued that this audio was all that was needed for a picture like this, but I do enjoy a little more attention paid to my audio experience than we got here.

Closing Statement

A complex story of two men diametrically opposed to each other in every way brought together through the process of self-discovery and a string of unfortunate events. This is a definite rent/possible buy for fans of the genre or of any of these actors.

The Verdict

Sterling Millennium Series is hereby charged to spend one hour a week learning how to make their films anamorphic as well as Dolby Digital 5.1. The rest of the time they can continue to do what they do best, collecting extras for us and making these lovely menus.

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Scales of Justice

Video: 80
Audio: 65
Extras: 97
Acting: 89
Story: 85
Judgment: 83

Perp Profile

Studio: Sterling
Video Formats:
• 1.85:1 Non-Anamorphic
Audio Formats:
• Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround (English)
• Spanish
Running Time: 114 Minutes
Release Year: 1999
MPAA Rating: Rated R
• Drama

Distinguishing Marks

• Two Audio Commentaries With Director And Actors
• Behind The Scenes Footage and Interviews
• Photo Gallery
• Millennium Trailer Gallery
• Read Or Print The Entire Screenplay
• Internet Connection To Websites


• IMDb

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