Find Me Guilty (2006) Sidney Lumet
Production Budget: $13 million
Worldwide Gross: $1.8 million
Find Me Guilty is the true life story of Jackie DiNorscio (Vin Diesel), who is serving 30 years of a narcotic sentence. He is given an offer for a lesser charge when the DA indicts 20 members of the Luchese crime family (including DiNorscio) under RICO and the DA wanted another witness. Jackie refuses to rat out his family and he defends himself in the RICO case. The case (the longest in US history at 21 months) is taken over by Jackie’s gagster persona which is a toss up between a liability or a genius attempt to win over the jury.
The movie received glowing reviews, some calling it one of the best of that year. Despite all that, Find Me Guilty only made $600,000 its opening weekend. I had heard Lumet sued the production company because they f*cked him over on the distribution rights (although I cannot seem to find verification on that). I do know that the movie had a poor amount of screens devoted to actually showing it so the claim does have a little merit.
Is it any good? Yes, it is a good movie. Let me address one thing that has been bugging me though: Vin Diesel. I have conflicting opinions on Vin Diesel here. He just does not look the role of a Jackie DiNorscio. Jackie is supposed to be a fat (his nickname was Fat Jackie), old (he has spent literally half his life in prison with kids and nearly grandkids), and all around like a slobby wiseguy. I give Diesel credit for gaining 30 pounds for the role and going through 2 hours of makeup every day. However that really doesn’t change the fact he still looks like Vin Diesel. I just have a very set in stone vision of Vin as this ripped “Riddick” action hero who, even though has gained 30 pounds, still looks like that old Vin. Despite all their best efforts, he still looked like Diesel and not DiNorscio. That being said, I really don’t have a problem with his performance. He acts very much like the wise guy the real life DiNorscio is and I give him credit for stretching himself as an actor for this role.
Okay, onto the rest of the movie. Lumet directed 12 Angry Men, which seemed to show the American Legal System at its very best. Well, it seems like Lumet wanted to bookend his career with a movie that shows the worst in the American Legal System. You thought the courts were honorable and justice is done, well F*CK YOU! 10 years of police and undercover work, millions of dollars spent, 2 years in trial, and we are left with the biggest debacle of the court since the OJ Simpson trial.
Another flaw I would say is present in the movie is Lumet has obviously fallen for the charm of the Luchese crime family much like the jury of the trial has. Lumet films them as the good guys fighting against a corrupt and EEEEEEEVVVVVIIIIILLLL District Attorney and shows their fight as something triumphant. Even he seems to forget the fact that these guys are murderers, drug dealers, rapists, thieves, and just about every other vile crime in the books. No matter how much Lumet wanted to present these guys as charming and lovable, I felt sick to my stomach that these guys fooled so many people and that none of them were really punished. Speaking from someone who grew up loving the law and fascinated by the law, this was a despicable display in the courtroom.
Despite my flaws with the film (which I seem to have spent the majority of the review discussing), it is a good film. I think Diesel does do a good job of carrying the film and I also have to mention the great performance by Peter Dinklage. Find Me Guilty is a good mix of comedy and drama and Lumet has a good feel for courtroom drama (obviously). I would recommend this movie. It is obviously not to the level of say 12 Angry Men, Dog Day Afternoon, or even Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead. But it is a good movie that was ignored in the theaters.