Friday, September 20, 2019

FIND ME GUILTY: Blu-ray debut for a Sidney Lumet gem boasting Vin Diesel's best role

TrustMovies first saw FIND ME GUILTY -- the penultimate film from the late, great Sidney Lumet (shown below) -- back in 2006 when it was first released.

He enjoyed it immensely then and found it just as much fun again now, thirteen years later. Though he must also say that this "take" on the longest federal trial in American history -- which might, back in 2006, have seemed to favor those adorable Mafia hoods (who were up on multiple charges) over the somewhat nasty-appearing government prosecutors -- looks a bit different today.

Now, with a lot more understanding of the damage the mafia does to every society with which it interacts, audiences may be a bit more likely to glom onto the lengthy and passionate speech delivered by the leading prosecutor (played quite well by Linus Roache), as he highlights, oh, so specifically, the costs to society -- from protection rackets to drugs to multiple murder -- of Mafia interference.

Of course, it's the mob "wise guys" -- one in particular played to a fare-thee-well and with great good humor by Vin Diesel (below) -- who prove the most fun, just as they did to the jurors who served on the actual trial, but Find Me Guilty is smart enough to understand and appreciate the immense and unsettling societal costs of an unchecked Mob that makes and lives by its own laws.

Mr. Diesel plays a real-life fellow named Jackie DiNorscio who, fed up with his fairly useless attorney, fires the guy and asks the court to allow him to defend himself in this famous trial that had more defendants than you could shake a stick at. The judge said OK, but I'll bet succeeding judges in Mafia trials went out of their way not to let this happen again.

How DiNorscio charmed the jury, even as he riles the biggest mob boss on trial (played with his usual strength and style by Alex Rocco, above, right), makes up most of the movie's two-hour running time. Much of DiNorscio's in-court dialog comes directly, we are told at the film's beginning, from court records. However, Mr. Lumet, never being a stickler for the truth over a good story, is, as co-writer here, up to his usual and much-appreciated tricks.

In the supporting cast are an interestingly used Peter Dinklage (above) playing one of the mob attorneys who occasionally helps out our "hero," and an even more unusually-used Raúl Esparza (below), as Jackie's drug-addled, turncoat cousin. In the role of the judge, Ron Silver has a few juicy, well-played scenes and moments, too.

Yes, as with most mob movies, this one's guy-oriented, though Annabella Sciorra has one good scene as Jackie's put-upon wife (her husband was a non-stop cocksman, it seems), and Marcia Jean Kurtz makes the most of her small screen time as one of the prosecutors.

It is Sidney Lumet's love of New York City and its denizens, however, together with his ability for smart pacing, sharp dialog, and just-plain-good-storytelling, that tops it all, making Find Me Guilty a pleasure that proves anything but guilty. See it if you haven't as yet -- or maybe once again, if you already have.

From MVD Visual and part of its Marquee Collection, the Blu-ray and DVD hit the street this past Tuesday, September 17 -- available now for purchase and (I hope) rental. Among the relatively minor Bonus Features is a very nice five-minute conversation with Mr. Lumet.

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