Find Me Guilty
Vin Diesel, Ron Silver, and Alex Rocco star in a film
written and directed by Sidney Lumet.
In 1960, Kenneth Tynan wrote in the New Yorker, “Hardly anything
in the whole range of dramaturgy is more difficult to write than a
dull trial scene.” Sidney Lumet (Serpico, Dog Day Afternoon, and
Murder on the Orient Express), who directed 12 Angry Men four years
before Tynan’s pronouncement, might have felt scanted in this
regard. His courtroom masterpiece, unlike, say, Witness for the
Prosecution, unwinds after the trial proper in the jury’s chambers.
He didn’t get to have a gruff attorney bray, “Objection, your
honor,” or a crusty but benign judge bark, “Overruled” while
waiting for some juicy inappropriate behavior to develop into the
stuff of life and death, truth or consequences,
innocent-versus-guilty capital-T theater.
So, for whatever reason, he made this film almost a half century
later, and, just to be safe, based it pretty much on the
transcripts of the longest New York mafia trial (21 months) ever.
Just the same, Lumet’s lamely titled Find Me Guilty seems to
partake more of the grand My Cousin Vinny or Legally Blonde
tradition than it does The Trial of Oscar Wilde. Vin Diesel plays
Giacomo “Fat Jack” DiNorscio brilliantly, but he’s a Lord of
Misrule let loose in a courtroom where the murdering, philandering,
and extortionary mob might finally be brought down under the law.
Lumet’s story of Fat Jack’s funny grandstanding of his own defense
makes the whole thing seem pretty wacky after all. So does the
Woody Allen-esque jazz band Louis Prima version of “When You’re
Smiling (The Whole World Smiles with You),” which plays throughout
the film to underscore the soulfulness of the Cosa Nostra thugs
over the pinched hearts of the informers and the New York legal
But maybe this makes it sound like it’s not fun to watch. Though
the un-rigorousness of the trial scenes does make the film drip
with an amber sentimental sap, it’s a compelling thing none the
less. Diesel is crude, delicate, schmaltzy, and brainy in this very
unexpected dramedy. Any objections to weird little films from a
maestro like Sidney Lumet are hereby overruled.