While most people perceive Vin Diesel as a deep-voiced, straight-laced action hero, his most valiant performances have come in lesser known films where he has worn a suit instead of a blood-soaked wife beater. Most people by now have at least heard of "Boiler Room," where both Diesel and Ben Affleck turned in surprisingly above-par performances, but most have probably not even caught a glimpse of "Find Me Guilty," another Diesel-starring picture that takes place almost entirely in a courtroom.
An ambitious film for Diesel, "Find Me Guilty" is based on the true story of the longest Mafia trial in U.S. history. The trial lasted over two years and featured Jack DiNorscio, an alleged gangster who refused to turn on his friends and "family" (most of whom were defendants in the same trial) and who talked much quicker than he thought. Not an idiot by any means, he was certainly not one to hold back, and since he decided to defend himself, he got plenty of chances to speak, to the judge, the witnesses and the jury directly.
Diesel played DiNorscio, and if the real DiNorscio was anything even close to the character in this film, then he was quite a character in real life. Loud, obnoxious, politically incorrect and yet strangely likable, he makes for the perfect protagonist in a Mafia flick. As mentioned earlier, most of the movie takes place in a courtroom, and, as ludicrous as the dialogue is, the screenplay is primarily taken from actual court documents and recordings.
Diesel is terrific in the lead and commands every scene he's in. Despite the fact that he is (okay, we'll say allegedly) a gangster, he's an entertaining one, and by the end of the flick you are certainly rooting for him to succeed. His completely stubborn notion of loyalty is his saving grace, though he certainly has a way with words, even if he is conceited.
Peter Dinklage also turns in an excellent performance as the head lawyer who struggles with the reality that DiNorscio could ruin his own defendant's chances of walking free.
"Find Me Guilty" is an entertaining, engaging and funny courtroom drama that works on just about every level. Great performances from Diesel and Dinklage and terrific dialogue all around make "Find Me Guilty" one of the better pictures of the year.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.
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