The real reason to watch 1997’s remake of “12 Angry Men” is to see Jack Lemmon and George C. Scott share the screen once again as they did in the very entertaining remake of “Inherit the Wind.” This time Lemmon replaces Henry Fonda in the role of Juror 8 while Scott is Juror 3. For a film directed by William Friedkin starring twelve very notable and prolific character actors, this version of “12 Angry Men” is very vanilla and absolutely forgettable. Friedkin never quite opts for subtlety with this reworking of the stage play, so he walks around with his camera, and films the teleplay like it’s an episode of “Law & Order.”
“You’re faced with a grave responsibility, ladies and gentlemen…”
One of my favorite scenes of “12 Angry Men” is in fact the opening. Sidney Lumet doesn’t so much provide exposition as he lays out the basic rule of the premise. These twelve men don’t have to abide by story conventions so much as they have to abide by the law and a strict principle about judging someone during this horrible trial. The question soon becomes how far will these men stretch these laws and principals to fit their own agendas? What will keep them biased and subjective in a case that requires a clear thought and analytical mind? The opening shot features the young boy in question transposed over the establishing shot of the empty jury room where his fate lies. He’s a young, minority, juvenile delinquent, with a violent past and his life lies in the hands of twelve strangers. Worse is that these twelve strangers have their own vendettas. His cards are stacked against him immediately since the trial has drawn on for weeks in to the hottest day of the year. The jurors were, presumably, chosen for their ability to put aside their own personal preferences to judge a case, but once Sidney Lumet puts these twelve men in a room together, it soon becomes apparent everyone has arrived with their goals in mind. It’s a group of the worst and best of America.
Last year, AFI posted their acclaimed list “The Greatest Cinematic Heroes and Villains.” Taking great umbrage with their many choices, I decided to sit down and think about it. Who were my Ten Cinematic Heroes? Who were ten people I’d strive to be, or would want to be in a perilous situation? I’m one of those weirdos who really always side with the heroes. Whether it’s an epic science fiction film, or swords and dragon fantasy film, the heroes have always appealed to me. Comics, Video Games, Cartoons, it’s always about the good guys overcoming an obstacle and or villain who wants to take over the world, or just plain ruin their life.
A hero isn’t always made, a hero is often a figure of circumstance, an individual who blossoms from a horrible situation, or someone who just decides they have to do the right thing against everyone else’s frustration. A hero is one who is willing to lay it down and sacrifice just to help someone they love, or possibly someone they’ve never met. They rarely ever get a pat on the back, or a reward, nor is their decision always justified, but they do what’s right, and that’s enough. These are my top 10 Cinematic heroes.
10. BEN – HUR (1959)
(Starring: Charlton Heston, Tony Curtis)
Charlton Heston is the main man of epic roles in movies such as “The Ten Commandments”, “Planet of the Apes”, and this. This is arguably the greatest gladiator movie of all – time and my favorite. Who can forget the epic exciting chariot race, and who didn’t nearly burst into tears as Hesston’s character, thirsty for water is helped by an unlikely biblical figure. Heston is truly a commanding actor as he takes this role into him and never comes back. I was breath taken throughout the entire movie’s genius directing and visual style. Truly a movie for all to see.