Holding Court – Rediscovering ‘Judicial Consent’ (US 1994 – 100 mins)

Posted in Rediscover by - October 12, 2014
Holding Court – Rediscovering ‘Judicial Consent’ (US 1994 – 100 mins)

Starting out looking more like an erotic thriller, the 1994 crime drama ‘Judicial Consent’ actually turns out to be a pretty good courtroom suspenser. There were similar (and better) movies of its type released that same year (‘The Client’ and ‘Disclosure’), but this rain-soaked thriller is fairly gripping with a talented cast and a rather surprising culprit.

Distinguished Judge Gwen Warwick (Bonnie Bedelia) meets a young clerk, Martin (Billy Wirth) in a library one day. Bored with her staid husband (Will Patton), Gwen begins a brief affair with the charming library worker. Soon afterward, her old mentor and close friend Charles Mayron (Dabney Coleman) is murdered late one night in his office. Although Gwen is assigned as the judge in this case, unfortunately for her most of the evidence points to herself as the killer.

Although the story is nothing new, the eventual unraveling of the mystery, coupled with the surprise villain, makes the movie a very enjoyable watch. It has a few steamy moments, especially the opening murder scene on a train, but it also has the feel of a television movie, probably due to its low budget.

In a rare leading role, Bonnie Bedelia’s excellent performance lifts the movie above the standard crime thriller fare. I’ve been a fan of Bonnie’s ever since seeing her in the superb 1969 movies ‘The Gypsy Moths’ and ‘They Shoot Horses, Don’t They?’, and it was nice seeing her carrying a movie rather than just being the support. A terrific actress, Bedelia is perhaps best known as the wife of Bruce Willis in the ‘Die Hard’ movies. Previously seen in ‘The Body Snatchers’ (’93), Billy Wirth is also good as Bedelia’s young lover, a would-be artist and sometime distraction in the judge’s unhappy marriage. Also in the cast is Lisa Blount as a District Attorney, the much under-rated Dabney Coleman as the victim, and as a senior judge the great Kevin McCarthy, still giving strong performances at 80.

Writer-director by William Bindley handles the material well in only his second feature. Bindley went on to make the wholesome 2005 sports drama ‘Madison’ starring Jim Caviezel and Bruce Dern. There is a nice music score from Christopher Young, a composer known mainly for his horror output, including ‘Hellraiser’ (’87), ‘Urban legend’ (’98) and ‘The Grudge’ (’04).

Although it has a familiar and sometimes complicated plot, ‘Judicial Consent’ remains a very enjoyable thriller, and one that makes for a decent late-night diversion.

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