Monday, August 21, 2006

Find Me Guilty

I suspect that in the future, say circa 2022, Vin Diesel will accept his Oscar for Best Supporting Actor (or Best Actor, since we are conjecturing anyway), and pay respects in his speech to Find Me Guilty as the film that set him on the path to true acting.

It could happen. Remind me again,... Who starred in this flick way back in '84?

Diesel has the lead role in Find Me Guilty, as Giacomo "Jackie Dee" DiNorscio. Directed by Sidney Lumet (yeah, the guy who directed 12 Angry Men, Serpico and Dog Day Afternoon), the film is supposed to be a pretty true-to-life accounting of the longest criminal trial in US history. For more than two years, a team of prosecutors carried out their case against Jackie Dee's alleged Mafia family, all of whom were lawyered up with high-priced suits. Except for Jackie Dee. He represented himself.

Like many of the movies directed by Lumet, Find Me Guilty is heavy with dialogue. This movie focuses nearly all of it's two hours on the courtroom scenes, which are reported to be nearly identical to the actual transcripts of the trial. Early in the movie I found myself put off by Jackie's unsophisticated mannerisms and courtroom style; later, I discovered that I was rooting for the guy. Even though I knew he was guilty. Really guilty.

Which brings me back to my opening line.

I'm not naive enough to believe Diesel is the next Tom Hanks. But, I was very surprised at how he transformed himself into this role, and the chops he showed while doing it. At popcorn time (which, for the uninitiated, is about midway through for me) I realized that I had forgotten that it was Vin Diesel in the starring role. Jackie Dee's mannerisms were different than Diesel's, his dialect was different that previous Diesel characters, and the actor seemed pretty comfortable with the slower-paced, dialogue-filled scenes.

He went from this...

...To this pretty easily. He was believable. As hard as that may be to believe.

I can't recommend the film highly for a few reasons. Mostly, it was too long, relied too heavily on dialogue and didn't spend enough time developing the supporting characters. But Diesel proved he had some real chops.

That, alone, was a welcome change of pace.

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