Just Cause (film)
|Directed by||Arne Glimcher|
|Produced by||Arne Glimcher
|Written by||Jeb Stuart
|Music by||James Newton Howard|
|Edited by||William M. Anderson
|Distributed by||Warner Bros. Pictures|
Paul Armstrong (Sean Connery), a liberal Harvard professor opposed to capital punishment, is persuaded to go to Florida, to investigate the conviction of Bobby Earl Ferguson (Blair Underwood) for murder. Ferguson, a former Cornell University student, is a highly intelligent, charming, and articulate black man who was convicted of raping and murdering a young white girl. Armstrong must save him from being executed in the electric chair. Ferguson tells Armstrong that he was tortured by two police detectives to get a confession. As Armstrong digs deeper into the case, he discovers that Tanny Brown (Laurence Fishburne), the chief detective on the case, did indeed coerce Ferguson's confession.
The plot thickens when Ferguson tells the professor that the murder was actually committed by Blair Sullivan (Ed Harris), a serial killer awaiting execution, who later reveals the location of the weapon used to kill the girl. When Armstrong discovers the weapon, Brown tries to threaten him into abandoning the investigation. (It is revealed that the murdered girl was Brown's daughter's best friend.) Ferguson gets a re-trial and is freed from prison. Subsequently, the governor signs Sullivan's death warrant.
Armstrong then receives a call from Sullivan, who says he has a final clue for him, but first asks him to visit his parents and tell them he said goodbye. Armstrong is shocked to find the butchered bodies of Sullivan's parents, and returns demanding an explanation before telling Sullivan what he saw. Sullivan gloats that he and Ferguson struck a deal: Ferguson would kill Sullivan's parents in exchange for freedom, while Sullivan would claim responsibility for the girl's murder, which Ferguson in fact committed. Armstrong has the last laugh by lying to Sullivan that his parents were alive and that they "forgive him". Sullivan becomes furious and resists the guards taking him to the electric chair where he is executed.
Armstrong and Brown go after Ferguson, who desires revenge on Armstrong's wife (Kate Capshaw); she was the prosecutor in a previous rape trial which, while thrown out of court on a technicality, resulted in him being brutalized and castrated in jail, as well as being kicked out of Cornell, robbing him of any chance of a future. Ferguson plans to murder Armstrong's wife and daughter (Scarlett Johansson) and then disappear, but Armstrong and Brown come to the rescue. They kill Ferguson and save Armstrong's family.
Differences from the novel
While the film is generally faithful to Katzenbach's novel, it departs from it in a few key areas. Most notably, Ferguson in the novel does not kill Sullivan's parents; this plot device is used as a red herring. Also, the film omits a supporting character, Andrea Schaeffer, a homicide detective who helps in the investigation. Finally, the main character is named "Matt Cowart" in the novel, and is an investigative journalist rather than a college professor.
- Sean Connery – Paul Armstrong
- Laurence Fishburne – Sheriff Tanny Brown
- Kate Capshaw – Laurie Prentiss Armstrong
- Blair Underwood – Bobby Earl Ferguson
- Ed Harris – Blair Sullivan
- Christopher Murray – Detective T. J. Wilcox
- Ruby Dee – Evangeline
- Scarlett Johansson – Katie Armstrong
- Daniel J. Travanti – Warden
- Ned Beatty – McNair
- Kevin McCarthy – Phil Prentiss
Unlike Glimcher's previous film, The Mambo Kings, Just Cause received mostly negative reviews, with a "Rotten" 22% rating on Rotten Tomatoes  and an average score of 6.2 on The Internet Movie Database.
The movie debuted with moderate success.
- "FILM REVIEW; Helping an Innocent on Death Row". The New York Times. Retrieved 2012-06-03.
- "Just Cause". Chicago Sun Times. Retrieved 2012-06-03.
- "Just Cause". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved 2012-06-03.
- "The 'Brady' Hunch Pays at Box Office : Movies: The film, based on the squeaky-clean '70s TV family, is thriving in the '90s with a solid opening weekend.". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2012-06-03.