Monday, August 24, 2009

BOOMERANG (Elia Kazan, 1947, USA) After the murder of a local Priest, District Attorney Henry Harvey must exercise the demon of retribution and uphold his moral and ethical obligation to the Rule Of Law. Based upon a true story concerning US Attorney General Homer Cummings, Elia Kazan directs a documentary style drama utilizing omniscient voice over narration, a stark reenactment of a crime that seemed diabolically out-of-place in 1930’s small town America…but has become a ubiquitous phenomena, fodder for reality TV and commonplace for any who work in Law Enforcement. The film would have been more effective as a crime drama; instead, it juxtaposes melodrama with an objective structure which subtracts from the films overall impact, relegating the characters to a mere pretense of human nature. As public and political pressure mount to find the killer, the police spit upon the Constitution, forgoing Arrest Warrants and suspending writs of Habeas Corpus in order to quell this backlash. Vague eyewitness accounts, torture (they may as well have used waterboarding), and subjective ballistics tests confirm the identity of the murderer: this is beginning to sound like Bush era America! But the DA believes that the confession was coerced and that the accused is innocent, so he must sacrifice his career and fulfill the function of his office: seek Justice. Elia Kazan takes many artistic liberties with the narrative, revealing the true killer as a man who confessed to the Priest some heinous act: a man whose predatory hawk-like visage stalks the courtroom during the legal proceedings. This is the first legal drama that builds its climax at the preliminary hearing, offering facts before the judge to uphold the lowest possible burden of prima fascia. The DA begins to argue the weight of his case against the suspect and slowly, with direct examination and by presenting physical evidence, asks that the case be withdrawn based upon the hollow testimony…and one muffled click of a loaded revolver. (And if I were the Public Defender, I would keep my mouth closed too). Though the courtroom shenanigans are unrealistic, the point is made that Harvey has stood up for the rights of the accused and upheld the tenets of the Constitution. (C)

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