Friday, December 4, 2015

The One Man Jury (1978)

          Judged by normal standards, the violent cops-and-criminals flick The One Man Jury is thoroughly pedestrian, yet another saga about policemen who perceive the Miranda ruling as an inhibition on their ability to use any means necessary while apprehending bad guys. Judged by the standards of the schlock that leading man Jack Palance spent most of the ’70s making, often in Europe, The One Man Jury fares much better. Instead of being incoherent junk with bad dubbing and heavy exploitation elements, The One Man Jury is an American production with a clear storyline and passable supporting performances. And while Palance sleepwalks through much of his performance, as was his wont in low-budget productions, he at least gets to participate in a fully rendered action climax complete with colorful locations, double-crosses, shootouts, and twists. If nothing else, The One Man Jury seems very much like a real movie for the last 30 minutes of its running time.
          Set in LA, the picture concerns Detective Jim Wade (Palance), a tough guy who still beats suspects and violates their Constitutional rights, even though post-Miranda laws mean that many of his arrests are voided by the courts. When a psycho starts murdering women, Wade becomes obsessed with catching the guy, so he makes a deal with gangster Mike Abatino (Joe Spinell), In exchange for giving Wade the name of the killer, who is associated with Abatino’s gang, Wade agrees to leave Abatino’s criminal operations alone. Half the movie explores the circumstances leading to the deal, and half the movie explores the consequences. Structurally, this is solid stuff, even though writer-director Charles Martin wanders into narrative cul-de-sacs. For instance, the whole business of Wade’s romantic involvement with a much-younger records officer, Wendy (Pamela Shoop), feels bogus from start to finish. Still, Spinell and actors including Andy Romano make fun hoodlums, and B-movie starlet Angel Tompkins gives the movie a shot of attitude with her brief role as a glamorous gambler. The main takeaway is that there’s a terrific concept buried inside The One Man Jury. In fact, the movie is something of a precursor to the much slicker Michael Douglas picture The Star Chamber (1983), in which a cabal of judges hires killers to take out crooks who get off on technicalities.

The One Man Jury: FUNKY


Cindylover1969 said...

This was loathsome, not least the ending where Wendy, who doesn't approve of Wade's actions, indulges in the cliche of gunning the bad guy down to save him. Morton Stevens probably couldn't get back to scoring "Hawaii Five-O" fast enough.

By Peter Hanson said...

Fair to say that one generally doesn't watch Jack Palance movies for moral guidance.

Unknown said...

Generally, no ... but when Curly said that in "City Slickers" that you have to figure out the one thing you need to go after in life, I took that to heart.