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Teen Movie Critic

The Chamber


Roger Davidson

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Possibly one of the lamest adaptations of a John Grisham novel, this just doesn't get you involved with the characters as much as other crime thrillers. Chris O'Donnell stars as an idealistic young lawyer, who attempts to free his unredeemable racist grandfather (Gene Hackman) from Death Row. Grandad is imprisoned for a race murder committed in Mississippi the year of 1967. Where as the original story had a lot more intrigue and intense character development, these fine points seemed to have been thrown out the window.

The film tries too hard to be like Dead Man Walking and a lot less time being like Grisham's original story. A lot of good that does, since Dean Man Walking saw both sides of the death penalty issue, while this only sees one side. And that side is heavily liberalized to a point where it's almost sickening. Hackman is good, while the rest of the cast is simply okay. Problem is Hackman makes his character a lot more mean and less sympathetic than the book intended him to be.

Faye Dunaway also has a thankless role (she's probably used to this by now) as Hackman's self-loathing alcoholic daughter, a role that is a cliche of every other on-screen alcoholic. O'Donnell is better than expected, though he wouldn't be my first choice for the role he's playing. His scenes with Hackman seem extremely forced and they both lack much-needed chemistry. The fact is that after Dead Man Walking, any film about the death penalty pales in comparison. If the filmakers behind The Chamber had attempted to see both sides of a very tricky subject, instead of drowning it in one-sided liberal preachiness, this would have been a lot smoother production. Even Grisham, though he didn't quite succeed, attempted to portray more balance in his book, which was accomplished so superbly in Dead Man Walking.

My Rating = Two Stars

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