Starring Kevin Spacey, Rebecca Jenkins, Paul Klementowicz, Bob Tracey, Gerard Malone, Chris Cooper, Calista Flockhart
The life of the celebrated lawyer is told throughout many landmark cases.
CLICK HERE and watch TV SHOWS FOR FREE!
I hold my hands up and admit that the only reason I bought this movie was because of Kevin Spacey being on the DVD front cover. There have been many of his films down the years which I have watched with admiration; “K-Pax” and “American Beauty” are to mention just two. Although this is a television movie, I was instantly marvelled at not just Spacey’s talents here so early on in his career but at the fact that a fine television movie is presented to us.
The life of Clarence Darrow was unknown to me prior to watching this movie, but after viewing it I appreciated his efforts to help those he saw as being under appreciated and not looked after by society. His life is one I not shall divulge, but it seems on the basis of this movie that Mr Darrow was not moved by financial gain but merely by righting wrongs that could, in his eyes, be corrected. Famous for defending impossibly difficult cases, he was perhaps most famous for defending Nathan Leopold Jnr and Richard Loeb after they confessed to brutally murdering Bobby Franks. The trial held in 1924, Loeb and Leopold were confined to the gallows by the public but due to Darrow’s perseverance in opposing capital punishment and his honest sincerity in mankind the two killers were given life imprisonment, and not death. Such a man should never be played or portrayed by fools, and here this is not the case for many reasons. The primary reason being thus: Kevin Spacey.
Having seen him appear in many films prior to this, I was surprised to see a film of his priced at this ridiculously low price of £050. One of the main reasons behind this is that this particular version of the movie is not known that well and it was originally made for television. Well, dear cinephile, such cinematic elements should not persuade you into avoiding this movie as it really is quite astonishing. As described prior to this paragraph, Darrow was a remarkable man. Helping out those who he felt needed assistance the most, his perseverance to lend a friendly legal hand was remarkable. But, history is history and cinema is a different matter altogether. The performance of such a man should never be taken lightly, and here Spacey does rather well on many levels.
Although this film was released many years before his breakthrough role in “American Beauty”, the foundations of a screen icon are all to see in this movie. You find that in some made-for-television movies you witness performances which really are that; lacklustre and not good enough for a feature length movie. Appearing alongside Spacey are some noticeable faces from previous television movies I have seen before, and it seems that they have not improved from their simplistic performance which I remember them giving. Spacey, despite his relatively youthful age of just over thirty when filming this, gives a performance which does not show his age. As this film chronicles Mr Darrow’s life, you see him as an elderly gentleman in the Leopold and Loeb case and, even then, you truly and utterly believe in his aged character. The mark of a wonderful actor and someone we should celebrate more often.
To say Spacey gives the only credible performance here would be a comment without taste, as Rebecca Jenkins gives just as fine a performance as Darrow’s second wife Ruby. Played with such gusto and quality which you see as a reason into why many television movie actors do not make it into the realms of mainstream cinema, Jenkins might not be the prettiest girl this side of the Atlantic but she sure is talented and performs with the confidence of someone regarded for her looks.
I cannot imagine the budget for this movie being great due to it being a television movie. But, despite this financial void, the director John David Coles does damn well with what he is given. Admittedly not a spokesperson on the era during this movie is set, the architecture and set design which in the UK I have seen previously in oil paintings as well as in buildings that I have seen in person, the location scout certainly served their director well as they chose some fine places to shoot. As for the direction itself, there are no spectacular sweeping pans or close-ups which would bring to mind the likes of Gregg Toland but instead Coles just allows matters to proceed and both Spacey along with Jenkins to prove their thespian salt. What more could you ask for?
I will always champion the finer made-for-television movies until the day I die. I really wish some members of society would not rubbish them simply because they were made for lesser-known mediums. When films such as “Darrow” exist, why the hell would you want to condemn them?