Trial by Jury

Go figure why Oscar winner William Hurt (Kiss of the Spider Woman) would piss away his real talent on an unreal, trashy-silly melodrama that could barely hack it as a TV movie. Still, it's gratifying to see Hurt again, even in a supporting role as a crooked cop turned mob facilitator. He gives his lowlife character, Tommy Vesey, a bruised dignity that hints at hidden depths.

Everyone else in the cast seems content to play the one dimension provided by co-writer and director Heywood Gould (One Good Cop). Joanne Whalley-Kilmer, trying vainly to hide her English accent, stars as Valerie Alston, a divorced mom in Manhattan, called in for jury duty on the murder trial of mob boss Rusty Pirone (Armand Assante, doing shtick he has done way too often). Gabriel Byrne, trying vainly to hide his Irish brogue by tawkin' New Yawk, is U.S. attorney Daniel Graham, a man whose political ambitions lead him to break a few codes of honor to put Rusty away.

Valerie ends up bending a few rules herself. She has got her reasons. The boss sends Tommy to threaten her: If Valerie doesn't throw in a verdict of not guilty to hang the jury, she and her son will be dead meat. That's when Valerie turns lethal mama bear to protect her cub and keep Rusty from sneaking into her apartment again; he likes to dress her up fancy, and then rape her. Go figure.

From The Archives Issue 85: June 24, 1971