My weekly movie reviews. You can also read these on letterboxd.
This week focuses on three films starring James Woods that I recently watched for the second time.
INDICTMENT: THE MCMARTIN TRIAL (1995)
Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars
Who knew that this made for HBO movie would be more relevant now than it was in the mid-90s?
In the light of all the cancel culture and recent fear-mongering in American culture, it could not be a better time to take a second look at INDICTMENT: THE MCMARTIN TRIAL. The film shows, just as well as Thomas Vinterberg’s masterful THE HUNT, how hysterical our society can become and how much it can effect the justice system. It shows the danger of deciding to flatly believe all “victims” and to assume guilt before innocence. The film demonstrates all this under the careful execution of director Mick Garris without coming off as heavy handed or preachy. It’s no surprise that years later he would direct another stellar courtroom film, DENIAL.
It’s also ironic now that James Woods leads the picture. Cancelled by left-leaning Hollywood for expressing his right-wing views, his usually-intense performance here is almost screaming at our future selfs, warning what is going to happen in 20 years.
Like THESE THREE and other stories about the dangers of conformist thinking, INDICTMENT is a must watch as we fight our way through another scary time to be alive.
Watched on HBO Max.
DIRTY PICTURES (2000)
Rating: 3 out of 5 Stars
James Woods was on a roll in the 90s and early 2000s with these made for TV movies that spoke to cultural issues, many of them more relevant now than at the time.
DIRTY PICTURES speaks to free speech in a way that probably seemed left-wing at the time. Ironically, the movie feels conservative now (perhaps another omen inspired by the casting of Woods). Statements in the film about the first amendment, specifically upholding the right for someone to say something or create a piece of art you don’t like, now contradict the left’s idea of a more controlled free speech that fits into an idealogical box.
But unlike his other TV crusade INDICTMENT, this film is didactic. It can’t stay away from punching the message home. Between its intercut interviews and slices of the jury’s conversations, it doesn’t trust the audience to get it and therefore loses its impact. Woods is still good, if maybe miscast as the director of an art gallery.
Watched on Tubi.
THE BOOST (1988)
Rating: 2.5 out of 5 Stars
Take two of the best actors of the 80s and put them together in a tough drama about drug addiction and you have a great movie, right? Nope. Somehow THE BOOST squanders the talents of James Woods and Sean Young, who are not only two of my favorite actors but also have incredible on screen chemistry (no wonder they hooked up).
The script transitions between their poverty to success and back very abruptly, making huge jumps in lifestyle without the right pieces to fill in the gaps. This makes the characterizations disjointed despite the efforts of Woods and Young. And Harold Becker’s lackluster direction doesn’t help either. I don’t feel a voice behind the camera, just someone punching the clock instead of driving the narrative.
It also features one of the most unintentionally laughable moments in a dramatic film. I won’t spoil it but the event that happens to Sean Young in the second half is so poorly staged it’s like something out of a student film.
THE BOOST could have been a riveting drama about drug addiction in the 80s. Instead its a super-flawed melodrama worth forgetting except for its two leads.
Watched on Tubi.