Starring: Vin Diesel, Peter Dinklage, Ron Silver, and Alex Rocco
Director: Sidney Lumet
Rating: Seven of Ten Stars
When life-long gangster Jackie Dinorsio (Diesel) is offered a chance to escape a 30-year prison sentence by turning state's evidence against his former Lucchesi Crime Family associates, he refuses to turn on those he considers his friends. Instead, he turns the biggest organized crime trial in American history into a vehicle to express his view of family values within the Family.
I like lawyer/court room movies. I like Vin Diesel, and I really liked him in "The Pacifier". I walked into "Find Me Guilty" really wanting to like the movie alot. Unfortunately, I found it a little lacking.
Some critics have complained that the movie turns morality upside down--the mobsters are basically the good guys here (with one exception--mob boss Nick Calabrese, played by Alex Rocco), while the federal prosecutor is a complete rat bastard--but I really didn't mind this aspect of the film, because the character of Jackie Dinorsio is the point of view from which the story is told, and he is truly convinced that all his criminal associates truly are "good fellas." The weakest point in the movie to my mind was the lead prosecutor was portrayed as so over-the-top that he brought down the rest of the movie. (Why did he have prison guards harass and beat up Dinorsio on the night before the Big Final Trial Witness was to appear in court?) Every other lawyer portrayed seemed believable, but the prosecutor did not. (Being that "Find Me Guilty" is based on the real-life 21-month RICO trial of a dozen or so New Jersey mobsters, perhaps the real-life prosecutor really was such a over-dramatic jerk... but he should have been toned down, because he was out of step with the rest of the performances in the film.)
"Find Me Guilty" is definitely Vin Diesel's show, and he manages to truly get the audience to feel sympathy for the wise-cracking Dinorsio, who, in the face of all the facts around him, continue to cling to his notion that there truly is love and respect shared between mobsters. To the very end, Dinorsio hangs onto this idea and continues to espouse it as he mounts a defense of himself and his buddies as his own attorney. In fact, the only friends that Dinorsio seems to have is the lead mob attorney (expertly played by Peter Dinklage) and the presiding judge (Ron Silver) who seems to develop some affection for Dinorsio as the trail unfolds; but Dinorsio never notices. If he does, he doesn't let it show.
There are plenty of chuckles in "Find Me Guilty", but I would have liked for more belly-laughs in the film. I recommend it if you enjoy mob movies or court-room dramas. I don't think it's a great movie, but I think my time watching it was well-spent.