Murder in the First. Similar circumstances, I suppose. Kevin Bacon's the defendant in both circumstances, anyway. In Criminal Law, he seems more like Chip Diller all growed up and out of the frat house... okay, that's unfair. He's actually too convincing as the rich boy with delusions of vigilantism, like he watched Death Wish once too often but missed the point. Why the Right Wing doesn't hold this movie up as one of Hollywood's Good Works is beyond me. Maybe because there's names like Mark Kasdan in the credits.
As for Gary Oldman, well... I noticed that some of the IMDb'ers were hatin' on his accent. I won't go that far, because I studied Christian Bale's performance in American Psycho, and his accent definitely slipped during the big emotional climax on the phone. During Oldman's first emotional climax at Karen Young's house, the accent didn't seem to slip! Personally, I think the problem is that this is too ordinary a role for Oldman in the first place. But he gives us a little of that ol' Sid and Nancy magic when he's playing racquetball by himself. God bless 'im.
Actually, it's probably the wrong movie for director Martin Campbell as well, who would go on to do GoldenEye and the new Bond-esque Zorro movies with Antonio Banderas. But I will commend him for that one sex scene! We had to search through it, for God's sake! Not bad for an R pic from 1988. Karen Young was also in 9 1/2 Weeks. I've never seen it myself, but I'll bet it wasn't that steamy. Gotta get this on DVD or Blu-Ray... and edit out the part where Kevin Bacon's in the scene. Ewww...
Anyway, on to the plot. Maybe the subject matter itself is just inherently bland, but because it's a Kasdan product it does smack of backstory and deep characters. Gary Oldman plays, wait for it... Ben Chase, former prosecutor turned defense attorney, but he's no mere ambulance chaser anymore. See? It's all related. We open the film with the case that won't consume the rest of the film, but with the defendant that will. Sorry, SPOILER ALERT. Ben's life as a defense attorney takes a turn for the worse: he grows a conscience. He realizes he's a mere pawn for guys like Kevin Bacon... what is his name, anyway? We don't learn it during the trial. His name's ultimately not that important. All you need to know is that he's the bad guy, and that he's a Fourth.
As Roger Ebert says, there's a "meet cute." Arguably, it's not so cute to begin with, and it's probably the only way I'll ever meet a girl, but I still felt a little used by it all. It's complicated, anyway: Gary Oldman goes to meet Kevin Bacon at the park at 11pm at night, but runs into the charred body of a young woman instead. Oldman takes off, finds the first house he can, and asks to use their telephone. The house is occupied by one Ellen Faulkner (Karen Young), and the two eventually fall in love, even though she hates him at first because of what he is: a defense attorney. One other casting gripe: I think I heard that the film takes place in Boston. They must've mentioned it once or twice. But Joe Don Baker? Seriously? Hell, Tess Harper, for that matter! You want to complain about accents!
In summation, ... I know, I'm terrible. Well, the film must have some kind of legs! I typed in "Criminal Law" into the IMDb search window, and it came up! And it was the only one at that. I found it to be average, overall. It had mostly bad moments and bad plot devices, but a couple good moments. I kinda liked the big final courtroom showdown. I guess the Right Wing doesn't champion this movie because, even though the woman representing Planned Parenthood gets killed, she was a Job Creator. And that's with a capitol J.C., if you get my drift. Besides, it was an inside job. But the Right Wing should know as well as anybody that all rich people are crazy. God bless 'em for not leaving their side.
As for the music, well... it may have been composed by Jerry Goldsmith, but he borrowed rather liberally from Peter Gabriel's The Rhythm of the Heat. Maybe a little too liberally.
-so sayeth The Movie Hooligan