I stumbled across a used DVD of JUST CAUSE (1995) a few weeks back when Judy and I hit a local thrift store to do some bargain hunting. For 99 cents, I figured, hey, why not? I ponied up the money for only one reason: Sean Connery. I figured that anything with Connery in it is worth seeing at least once and besides, the price was definitely right for ol' skinflint Frank.
Based on the novel of the same name by John Katzenbach (which I have not read), JUST CAUSE is the story of Paul Armstrong (Connery), a Harvard law professor and strong anti-death penalty advocate. After a public appearance in a small Southern town, Armstrong is persuaded by the mother of Bobby Earl Ferguson (Blair Underwood), to look into her son's murder trial, conviction and subsequent death penalty. She swears he's innocent.
Armstrong is at first reluctant to take the case but once he starts digging around in the Florida town where the murder was committed (the victim was a young white girl), he comes to believe that his client, a well-spoken, highly intelligent young black man, is innocent. Armstrong soon uncovers evidence which indicates that insane serial killer and fellow death row inmate Blair Sullivan (Ed Harris), actually committed the crime. A new trial is held and Bobby Earl is found not guilty. He's released from prison while Sullivan is soon executed.
End of story, right? Whoa, hold on there Tex. Not so fast. I can see by the old clock on the wall that we've still got about thirty minutes of running time left which means it's time for a major plot twist in the third act. I won't say what it is, but it's a fairly good one (if a bit contrived).
As I said, you watch a routine, generic thriller like JUST CAUSE just to see the great Sean Connery in the twilight of his film career. Is it his best work? Far from it. But any Connery is better than none. Ed Harris does his best Hannibal Lecter impersonation but instead of the silky menace exuded by Anthony Hopkins, Harris turns everything up to 11. It's showy, flashy and theatrical and not entirely convincing. The supporting cast is good, with Laurence Fishburne as the small town police chief who butts heads with Connery before they finally have to work together to bring a killer to justice.
Bottom line: not a great film but not a terrible one either. I think I got my 99 cents worth.