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Drama - Court Room

The Chamber (1996)

Duration1h 53m
RatingsUK: 12, USA: R, Spain: 18
Source of storyA book of the same name by John Grisham
DirectorJames Foley
Writers/ScriptWilliam Goldman, Phil Alden Robinson
StarringChris O’Donnell, Gene Hackman, Faye Dunaway,
RatingsIMDb: 6.0/10 by 15,477 people .  Rotten Tomatoes: 15% by 26 reviewers. Review2view: Unfortunately yet another 5/10.

Summary: A newly qualified lawyer, Adam Hall, is sent to attempt to save the life of his grandfather Sam Cayhall, who is on death row in Mississippi for participating in a bombing of a Jewish lawyer’s office, which disabled the lawyer and killed his two children. He reconnects with his alcoholic socialite aunt whose brother, Adam’s father, has committed suicide as a result of a traumatic event in his childhood. This is the killing of a black man by Sam Cayhall who had got away with it by claiming self defence. Adam tries various means to get Sam’s death sentence revoked, although Sam refuses to apologise or beg for mercy, and in any case the governor is determined that it should go ahead for political purposes.

Content: No sex or nudity but some drinking and quite a bit of smoking. There are a number of flashbacks including the one where Sam Cayhall fights with a black man, the father of a friend of Adam’s father (sorry this is a bit complicated) and levels a shotgun at his and kills him. We also see the explosion which kills the Jewish lawyer’s children. Adam spends a lot of time in the prison with his grandfather and the two gradually develop mutual respect, although Sam remains unrepentant about his involvement with the KKK. This was a situation he had inherited from his father and grandfather.  Just a bit of time spent with Lee, Adam’s aunt, who fills in some of the history, but does not want her relationship with Sam, her father, broadcast.

A View: No-one liked this film very much, including John Grisham who had sold the film rights before he had finished writing the book. Fay Dunaway was nominated for a Razzie, but did not win. I don’t think Chris O’Donnell was really up for the role of Adam, which had been made available after Brad Pitt walked away. The scriptwriters were dissatisfied with their work despite numerous drafts and no wonder. It was a book which did not really transfer to the big screen, so not really a watch, even while doing something else.

John Grisham has been the author of a number of books which have been successfully filmed, but only one has been reviewed on this site: The Firm.

John Grisham has been the author of a number of books which have been successfully filmed, but only one has been reviewed on this site: The Firm.

About Victor R Gibson

Author of this site three technical books and two novels


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