A Time to Kill (film)
|A Time to Kill|
Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Joel Schumacher|
|Produced by||Arnon Milchan
|Screenplay by||Akiva Goldsman|
|Based on||A Time to Kill
by John Grisham
Samuel L. Jackson
Charles S. Dutton
|Music by||Elliot Goldenthal|
|Cinematography||Peter Menzies Jr.|
|Edited by||William Steinkamp|
|Distributed by||Warner Bros.|
|Running time||149 minutes|
|Budget||$40 million (est)|
A Time to Kill is a 1996 drama film adaptation of John Grisham's 1989 novel of the same name, directed by Joel Schumacher. Matthew McConaughey, Sandra Bullock, Samuel L. Jackson, and Kevin Spacey star, with Oliver Platt, Ashley Judd, Kiefer Sutherland, Donald Sutherland, and Patrick McGoohan appearing in supporting roles.
Set in Canton, Mississippi, the film involves the rape of a young girl, the arrest of the rapists, their subsequent murder by the girl's father, and the father's trial for murder. The film was a critical and commercial success, making nearly $110 million at the U.S. box office.
||This article's plot summary may be too long or excessively detailed. (December 2013)|
Two white racists, Billy Ray Cobb and James Louis 'Pete' Willard, come across a 10-year-old black girl named Tonya Hailey in rural Mississippi. They violently rape and beat Tonya and dump her in a nearby river after a failed attempt to hang her. She survives, and the men are arrested.
Tonya's father, Carl Lee Hailey, seeks out Jake Brigance, an easygoing white lawyer. Carl Lee is worried that the men may be acquitted due to deep-seated racism in the Mississippi Delta. They discuss a similar case further south in which four white teenagers were acquitted of the rape of a black girl. Brigance admits the possibility that the rapists will walk free in this case as well. Carl Lee acquires an M16 rifle, goes to the county courthouse and opens fire. This results in the deaths of both rapists and also in the unintended injury of Deputy Looney, who has to have his leg amputated. Carl Lee is soon arrested without resistance. Brigance agrees to provide defense for Carl Lee for a much smaller amount of money than such a trial would usually require. He intends to enter a plea of not guilty by reason of temporary insanity.
The rape and subsequent revenge killing gain national media attention. The Ku Klux Klan begins to organize in the area. Freddie Lee Cobb, the brother of Billy Ray, calls Brigance and his family with death threats and organizes the formation of a Klan chapter in the county. The district attorney, Rufus Buckley, decides to seek the death penalty, and presiding Judge Omar Noose denies Brigance a change of venue. Brigance seeks help for his defense team from sleazy divorce lawyer and close friend Harry Rex Vonner. He seeks guidance from long-time liberal activist Lucien Wilbanks, a once-great civil rights lawyer who was disbarred for violence on a picket line.
Brigance is approached by Ellen Roark, a liberal law student from Massachusetts who is a member of the ACLU. Brigance is initially reluctant to accept Ellen's cooperation, but he later agrees to let her help with the case. The trial begins amid much attention from the media and public. The Klan, which has a member inside the sheriff's department, burns a cross on Brigance's lawn. This incident causes an argument between Brigance and his wife to the effect that if Brigance had heeded Carl Lee's warning, this would not have happened. The police evacuate Brigance's family from their house. One of the Klan members shows remorse for the groups' actions, and warns Brigance and the police of an upcoming attack. Brigance and the Sheriff capture one of the Klan members, and they find a case with a bomb inside it. Brigance sets off the alarm accidentally but is able to throw the bomb away from the house before it explodes. This motivates Brigance to send his wife and young daughter away while the trial continues.
As the trial begins, the KKK march down Clanton's streets and meet a large group of mostly black protesters at the courthouse as the KKK Kleagle publicly accuses the black people for many things, such as stealing, raping and killing, and they want Carl Lee convicted and sentenced to death. A brawl ensues between the KKK and the black protesters outside the courthouse as the police lose control of the crowd. A black teenager kills the Kleagle with a Molotov cocktail, burning him to death. Brigance's attraction to Roark grows, and they nearly begin an affair before Brigance regains his wits. He goes home, finding that arsonists have burned down his house, nearly killing his dog Max in the process. The next morning, as the Mississippi National Guard is called in to take care of the rioting, Brigance sits on the still-smoking steps of his house, calling for his dog. Harry Rex arrives at the remains of the Brigance home and tells Brigace that it is time to quit the case. Brigance argues that to quit now would make his sacrifices meaningless. The jury secretly discusses the case in a restaurant, going against the judge's instructions. All but one are leaning toward a guilty verdict and Carl Lee's fate looks sealed.
Freddie Lee Cobb shoots at Brigance as he exits the courthouse, but misses. The bullet hits a National Guardsman policing the demonstrations, wounding him. Roark is kidnapped by Klansmen, beaten, tied to a stake in the wilderness in her underwear and left to die. She is saved by an informant called "Mickey Mouse", who is one of the Klansmen: Tim Nunley. Out of options, Brigance goes to see Carl Lee in his jail cell and advises accepting a lesser guilty plea. Carl Lee refuses and rejects Brigance's notions of race and justice, noting that although Brigance considers himself a "friend" to Carl Lee, Brigance has never visited his home and that "Our kids will never play together." Carl Lee tells Brigance that he chose Brigance to be his attorney because Brigance is in fact his "enemy", as Brigance is white and was thus raised amid the same racial prejudices harbored by the jury members. Carl Lee tells Brigance to sway the jury by presenting to them whatever argument it would take to get Brigance himself to vote for acquittal, were Brigance a member of that jury.
The courthouse is packed to see the attorneys' closing arguments. Brigance tells the jury to close their eyes and listen to a story. He describes, in slow and painful detail, the rape of a young 10-year-old girl, mirroring the story of Tonya's rape. He then asks the jury, in his final comment, to "now imagine she's white." This final burst of imagery challenges the very nature of the trial itself, raising the very real specter—within the racist culture of the community in which the crime took place—that the actions of Hailey would not have been called to question before the court of law had the victim been white. Had it been so, it is implied that the father's motive in murdering the rapists would have been seen by the public as justified, and there would not have been any prosecution.
The argument Brigance then makes is that if the jury can—at any time—be compelled to spare the life of a white man for a vengeful murder, then they must be able to do the same for a black man. After deliberation, an African-American child runs out of the courthouse and screams, "He's innocent!" Jubilation ensues amongst the supporters outside. The KKK, enraged, become violent again. Sheriff Ozzie Walls arrests Freddie Lee, as well as his own racist deputy. The movie ends when Brigance brings his wife and daughter to a family cookout at Carl Lee's house. Carl Lee is surprised and standoffish. Brigance explains, "Just thought our kids could play together," to which Carl Lee smiles.
- Matthew McConaughey as Jake Brigance
- Sandra Bullock as Ellen Roark
- Samuel L. Jackson as Carl Lee Hailey
- Kevin Spacey as Rufus Buckley
- Brenda Fricker as Ethel Twitty
- Oliver Platt as Henry Rex Vonner
- Charles S. Dutton as Ozzie Walls
- Ashley Judd as Carla Brigance
- Patrick McGoohan as Judge Omar Noose
- Kiefer Sutherland as Freddie Lee Cobb
- Donald Sutherland as Lucien Wilbanks
- John Diehl as Tim Nunley
- Doug Hutchison as James Louis "Pete" Willard
- Nicky Katt as Billy Ray Cobb
- Chris Cooper as Dwayne Looney
- Anthony Heald as Dr. Wilbert Rodeheaver
- Kurtwood Smith as Stump Sisson
- Rae'Ven Larrymore Kelly as Tonya Hailey
- M. Emmet Walsh as Dr. Willard Tyrell Bass
Box office performance
According to Boxofficemojo.com, the movie performed well earning over $108 million domestically.
The film received mostly positive reviews from critics, earning a 67% "Fresh" rating on Rotten Tomatoes, based on 51 reviews, a critical consensus reading: "Overlong and superficial, A Time to Kill nonetheless succeeds on the strength of its skillful craftsmanship and top-notch performances," and a score of 54 out of 100 on Metacritic, based on 21 reviews.
James Berardinelli gave the film three stars out of four, calling it "involving, energetic, and occasionally thought-provoking". Roger Ebert also gave the film three stars out of four, saying: "I was absorbed by A Time to Kill, and found the performances strong and convincing," and added that "this is the best of the film versions of Grisham novels, I think, and it has been directed with skill by Joel Schumacher."
The film was not without its detractors, however. Anthony Puccinelli gave the film one star, calling it "worthless" and remarking: "A Time to Kill argues for vigilantism but disguises its message by making the vigilante black, allowing viewers to think their blood lust and thirst for revenge is actually empathy for the oppressed." Peter Travers felt that "they [Schumacher and screenwriter Akiva Goldsman] cram[med] in too much," adding, "This distracts from the heart of the picture, which is in the bond between Carl Lee (the brilliant [Samuel L.] Jackson is quietly devastating) and Jake, a husband and father who knows he, too, would have shot anyone who raped his little girls."
Grisham enjoyed the film, remarking: "When all was said and done I was happy with it, happy we were able to find a kid like Matthew McConaughey. It wasn't a great movie, but it was a good one."
Reaction in France
In France, the film has been the subject of much controversy. Critics have accused the movie of making an apology for the death penalty and right of self-defense. A question mark was added at the end of the title ("Le Droit de tuer ?"/"The Right to Kill ?") so as not to shock the audience. Amnesty International France uses the word "disturbing" when referring to the film in one of its documents.[not in citation given] Les Inrockuptibles described the film as "nauseating", "stinking", almost "fascist", with a script "ultra-populist" that makes you want to "vomit". Libération criticized the script, calling it "extremely dirty": the movie, says the newspaper, "militates in favour of the black cause only to legitimize, after many plot buckles (resurrection of the Ku Klux Klan, the deceits of court, threats [of m]any kinds) the mentally ill gesture of the avenging father". According to Libération, the movie "justifies the indefensible" with a "dripping sentimentalism".
- Golden Globe - Best Supporting Actor - Samuel L. Jackson - Nominated
- NAACP Image Award - Best Supporting Actor in a film - Samuel L. Jackson - Nominated
- Blockbuster Entertainment Award - Favorite Actress - Suspense - Sandra Bullock - Won
- MTV Movie Awards - Best Female Performance - Sandra Bullock - Nominated
- MTV Movie Awards - Best Breakthrough Performance - Matthew McConaughey - Won
- Razzie Award - Worst Written Film Grossing Over $100 Million - Akiva Goldsman - Nominated
- Stinkers Bad Movie Awards - Worst Supporting Actress - Brenda Fricker - Nominated
|This section needs additional citations for verification. (April 2013)|
|A Time to Kill|
|Soundtrack album by Elliot Goldenthal|
|Released||August 20, 1996|
|Genre||Classical, avant-garde, modernist|
|Elliot Goldenthal chronology|
- "Defile and Lament" – 2:33
- "Consolation" – 2:23
- "Justice Wheel" – 0:46
- "Pavane for Solace" – 2:29
- "Abduction" – 2:58
- "An Asurrendering" – 1:35
- "Pavane for Loss" – 1:07
- "Take My Hand Precious Lord & Retribution" by The Jones Sisters – 6:50
- "Torch and Hood" – 2:02
- "Pressing Judgement" – 1:29
- "White Sheet" – 2:38
- "Pavane for Solace" (piano solo) – 2:06
- "Verdict Fanfare" (For Aaron) – 4:03
- "Take My Hand Precious Lord" – 4:03
- Music composed by Elliot Goldenthal (except 8 and 14)
- Music produced by Matthias Gohl
- Orchestrated by Robert Elhai and Elliot Goldenthal
- Conducted by Jonathan Sheffer
- Recorded and mixed by Joel Iwataki
- Electronic music produced by Richard Martinez
- Additional orchestrations by Deniz Hughes
- "A Time to Kill - Box Office Data". The Numbers. Retrieved 8 August 2011.
- A Time to Kill at Box Office Mojo
- A Time to Kill Movie Reviews, Pictures - Rotten Tomatoes
- A Time to Kill Reviews, Ratings, Credits, and More at Metacritic
- Review: A Time to Kill
- "A Time To Kill". Chicago Sun-Times.
- Chicago Reader
- "Movie Reviews and Ratings from Peter Travers | Rolling Stone Movies". Rollingstone.com. Retrieved 2013-12-12.
- "Grisham v. Grisham: John Grisham issues judgment on ALL his novels" Tina Jordan, Entertainment Weekly, Feb 13, 2004
- Le Droit de tuer ? (1996) - AlloCiné
- A time to kill - Cinémathèque française
- Les Inrocks : Le Droit de tuer ?
- CINEMA. Sur fond de conflit racial et d'autodéfense, un «Droit de - Libération
- A Time to Kill (film) at AllMusic
|Wikiquote has a collection of quotations related to: A Time to Kill (film)|
- A Time to Kill at the Internet Movie Database
- A Time to Kill at AllMovie
- A Time to Kill (film) at the TCM Movie Database
- A Time to Kill at Box Office Mojo
- A Time to Kill at Rotten Tomatoes
- A Time to Kill at Metacritic