Plot: Eight years after the crime is committed, Harvard Law Professor Paul Armstrong (Connery) is asked to help prove the innocence of Bobby Earl Ferguson (Underwood), a man convicted of the rape and murder of an 11-year-old girl in Ochopee, Florida.
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Remembering his appearances in films like Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (1989) and The Rock (1996), I’ve been on the lookout to watch other Connery films (except for his rather overrated stint as James Bond, which I’m saving). So, when I stumbled across Just Cause, which he-costarred in with Laurence Fishburne, I figured I should probably give it a shot.
Would it be another memorable Connery appearance, or would the cracks, which appeared in Rising Sun (1993) be evident once more?
While Connery turns his unassuming personality into a determined man’s fight for the truth, exactly as the film asks for, but he still seems a bit miscast in the part – mostly because he seems more age appropriate to play father rather than husband to his wife of the film, Kate Capshaw (another Indy alum, this one from Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom (1984)). While this doesn’t seem important at first, the more and more interactions he has with his wife make this creepier and creepier as the film goes on.
Laurence Fishburne, who went on to investigate crime scenes over on “CSI: Crime Scene Investigations” (TV), plays small town Florida cop well, but is largely misused. With allegations he beat a suspect brutally hanging over his character’s head in every interaction he has with Connery’s Armstrong, seeing the two of them team up later on really seems somewhere out of left field, and totally diminishes anything Fishburne had created as a grudging protagonist earlier in the film.
Blair Underwood does a fine job as the accused, but as the film rolls on, he too falls into the largely misused category, but his, thankfully, doesn’t hurt his performance in the first half of the film.
The biggest problem with Just Cause is that, despite an intriguing start, it kowtows to the Hollywood machine and turns into just another been-there-seen-that thriller. The initial investigation is interesting, capturing the viewer’s attention as they follow Connery’s Armstrong as he pieces together the clues.
Abruptly, however, the film suddenly changes tactics, trying to surprise and shock the viewer. Unfortunately, this quick change operation instead leaves the viewer feeling rather disgusted, since the film never delivers anything new after that switch – and, in fact, seems to instead fall apart on flimsy excuses and inane banter.
Without that “surprise” twist partway through the film, Just Cause would have a been a fine whodunit, despite not working the script around Connery’s looks (at least make him shave the completely white beard or something, so the scenes with his “wife” aren’t so creepy). Instead, after switching gears, the film ends up driving itself into the abyss of ho-hum thrillers. Sure, it’s nice to have a surprise twist every so often – the filmmakers should just be sure the rest of the film is able to compete with the original storyline, otherwise they’ll just end of disappointing the viewer, who will be wishing they would have just stayed on the original track.
That’s exactly the problem with Just Cause – a solid beginning and a cliched ending.