Thursday, 20 June 2013

The Star Chamber (1983) - ★★★

Director: Peter Hyams
Writers: Peter Hyams (Screenplay), Roderick Taylor (Story)
Stars: Michael Douglas, Hal Holbrook, Yaphet Kotto, Don Calfa, Joe Regulbuto, Sharon Gless

The Star Chamber has some good acting, a very intriguing story, and a few thrilling scenes. Sometimes it defies the laws of 'basic cop thriller,' which is a term that describes this movie to a tee. The ending is ridiculous, but the whole way through I was entertained in one way or another. It's satisfying, but far from a good movie.

So basically, Judge Hardin (Michael Douglas) has had to dismiss cases on technicalities, even though the accused are almost certainly guilty. This really grinds his gears, he's fed up with the loop-holes of the law! His mate, Judge Caulfield (Hal Holbrook), knows just the remedy for what ails him. He introduces Hardin to a group of judges that choose which of the accused should be sentenced to death. Since the inner-workings of the law have failed the judges, they've taken things into their own hands. Now they're fighting back and hiring hit-men to kill the murderers they KNOW are guilty. The question is, how can they be sure?

At first I was caught up in the frustration of the story, seeing child-molesters and old-lady killers being set free due to warrant issues. However, I never felt that the judges were doing the right thing when they decided to get together and choose which suspects should be killed. From the start I was like "but what if they're innocent?" Thus, that's the direction the story took and everything else was rather predictable.

Hal Holbrook was brilliant in this film, but I can't help but ask why he is always put in the same roles? He almost always plays a seedy guy that's behind a conspiracy theory, or is just plain bad. What is it about his face and voice that makes him land these roles? Regardless, he was just plain awesome in this movie. Douglas played an angry Michael Douglas in this movie, which doesn't make the performance bad. It just wasn't anything special.

Holbrook plays the head conspirator.
I think the biggest crime committed in this film was the ending! My god was that an atrocious ending! I had to double-take when it was all over. So basically, Douglas is running away from these two drug dealers (who have an assassination hit against them). The assassinator shows up dressed in a police uniform and proceeds to shoot the two men. He then cocks his gun to shoot Douglas, when another cop shows up and shoots the assassinator! Without even knowing that it was a phoney cop, or what he was doing! It was so ridiculous, it absolutely defied the laws of basic cop-drama.

So even with all the ridiculousness, I still think it's a thoroughly average film. I was always intrigued, but not always entertained. The performances were fine, but nothing worth a watch. The story is pretty cool, but not executed to its full potential. I think this movie falls right between 'not bad' and 'not good.'

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