A Time to Kill
Just what is Sandra Bullock doing in this film? Hercharacter, Ellen Roark, shows up in the middle of the movie and offers to help out poor, struggling lawyer Jake Brigance (Matthew McConaughey) with his defense of Carl Lee Hailey (Samuel L. Jackson), a man who shot two rednecks after they brutally raped his ten-year-old daughter and left her to die. Bullock could have been cut from this two-and-a-half hour movie as easily as one trims a fingernail.
Her presence in the film, however, serves as the latest evidence that writer John Grisham's insistence on creative control has gotten completely out of hand. Despite his success, Grisham writes what literature professors and other fans of good writing like to call "doo doo" (though you'll only hear them say this from comfortable career niches where the big publisher's snipers can't pick them off). One can only imagine Grisham walking around the set with a long cigarette dangling from his mouth reminding everyone that "it's the art."
Director Joel Schumacher, to his credit, puts the overrated actress to best use -- as a big star-powered billboard to draw unsuspecting moviegoers into the theaters. However, to use critics' secret synonym for "a performance that does not live up to expectations," Bullock's acting in this film "bites."
Regardless, she gets top billing over the film's star, Samuel L. Jackson, making "A Time to Kill's" message about racism something of an irony. You can almost see it on Jackson's face during the tear-jerker ending: "Hey, I've got the most screen time. Why does the white chick get six million dollars?"
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