DATELINE: Witness for the Defense
This courtroom thriller used to be the sort of movie that was marketed by saying, “No one will be seated during the final five minutes.”
You may be cynical and contend that this is bargain-basement Agatha Christie without a witness for the prosecution coming to the surprise.
Keanu Reeves is a young, hotshot attorney, sort of like Jose Baez who is presently defending Aaron Hernandez in Boston. For Ramsey (Keanu), his client is a 17-year old wealthy scion with a bad case of affluenza. He is being tried for killing his legal whiz father.
If you think the acorn doesn’t fall far from the tree, you would revise your opinion when you discover within the first few minutes of the film that Jim Belushi plays the murdered pop.
We thought that made it an easy call of justified homicide.
But, just hold on, all you armchair detectives. Keanu Reeves may be ruthless in his legal life, but he has a couple of roadblocks in his way: including his client (Gabriel Basso) as the clever suspect and Gugu Mbatha-Raw as his second seat assistant lawyer. She’s hit with a bad case of ethics.
Keanu’s character contends that everyone lies in court—and apparently outside it.
Director Courtney Hunt acquits herself with a taut and tidy crime drama that has more red herrings than an Agatha Christie story. It’s actually written by Elia Kazan’s son (using a pseudonym to hide the truth).
We always enjoy watching the double-crosser being double-crossed. So will you.