12 Angry Men (1997) Review (Remake)

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After a trio of unnecessary sequels, I decided it was time to watch something different… So I’ve opted to review an unnecessary remake.

A court-room drama without the courtroom, 12 Angry Men is the real-time deliberation of an all-male jury charged with deciding the guilt of a young man who faces the death penalty for allegedly murdering his own father. At first ready to simply vote guilty and get the whole thing over with, the jury is hung by one lone dissenter, juror #8, who insists the life which hangs in the balance deserves a proper discussion of the facts of the case. Over the next hour and a half or so, the men are forced to examine not only the case, but their own prejudices.

I was ready to hate this movie. The 1957 movie is without question one of the finest dramas and character pieces, hell one of the finest movies, ever committed to celluloid. It’s as close to perfect as a film can be, and so re-making it (with Tony Danza, no less) seems utterly pointless; at best it can be as good, at worst, it will be yet another awful remake.

In truth, and my inner cinema-snob is in physical pain as I say this, it more-or-less succeeds in being as good as the 1957 version. Worse than that, it isn’t even entirely pointless; the mix of ages amongst the jury is interesting, and a new race element is added which fits perfectly with the story and tone of the piece. It doesn’t make it any better, nor does it detract; it simply adds a different element.

The cast (apart from Danza) consists of Jack Lemmon in the Henry Fonda role as Juror #8, and a cast of established character actors all off the “oh, it’s him, from loads of stuff” type, and all play their parts brilliantly.

If someone has a favorite play, or stage show, they may go and see it again and again, with different casts and the slight differences that a different director may bring. I think that’s the way to look at this remake; as a different production, neither better nor worse than the ’57 classic, itself a remake of a 1954 television play.

Would I¬†recommend it? Well, yes. I still think you should see the Henry Fonda version first if you haven’t already, but if you think it’s a film that’s worth seeing more than once (it is, by the way) maybe take this version out for a spin next time.

Sit down, and don’t open your filthy mouth again.

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