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American Tragedy

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PG-13
2000

American Tragedy is a discerning 2000 television miniseries directed by Lawrence Schiller. The screenplay for the film is beautifully-penned by Norman Mailer, and is based on his book 'American Tragedy: The Uncensored Story of the Simpson Defense.' This character-driven crime drama stars renowned actors such as Ving Rhames, Ron Silver, and Bruno Kirby, whose performances captivate the viewer's attention, adding depth and realism to the narrative.

The miniseries specifically revolves around the infamous O.J. Simpson trial, focusing on the behind-the-scenes legal maneuvers and ethical dilemmas faced by defense attorneys Robert Shapiro (played by Ron Silver) and Johnnie Cochran (played by Ving Rhames). Rather than retelling the crime or the subsequent events, the film concentrates on the defense's strategies and the challenges they encountered in representing an extremely high-profile defendant under intense public scrutiny.

The film opens with the arrest of O.J. Simpson (played by Raymond Forchion) after his ex-wife Nicole Brown Simpson and her friend Ronald Goldman were brutally murdered. O.J. Simpson, a former professional football player turned actor, was instantly at the center of media attention. This heightened interest put his legal team under extreme pressure to prepare a strong defense amidst the ongoing media circus.

The exploration of the complex relationship between Cochran and Shapiro forms the core crux of the film. In the miniseries, Silver's Shapiro is presented as a high-profile lawyer known for his celebrity clientele and negotiation skills, who initially took up Simpson's case. His strategy was to quickly negotiate a plea deal, considering the overwhelming evidence against Simpson. However, when the equally competent Cochran is brought onto the team, things start to change.

Known for his charisma and his ability to turn the courtroom into a stage, Ving Rhames portrays Johnnie Cochran brilliantly. Cochran believes in Simpson's innocence and is determined to win the case at all costs. He convinces Simpson to reject the plea deal and decides to challenge the Los Angeles Police Department's handling of the case, all while dealing with the racially charged environment surrounding it. The focus on Cochran's perspective adds a fresh and unique dimension to the well-known tale of the Simpson trial.

Rounding out the cast is Bruno Kirby, who portrays Barry Scheck. Noted for his expertise in the field of DNA evidence, Scheck plays a critical role in assembling the defense strategy. The riveting performances by Silver, Rhames, and Kirby, and their stellar portrayal of the defense team provide the audience with an insight into the drama that unfolded behind closed doors.

American Tragedy weaves together the themes of race, media influence, celebrity status, and the justice system. It not only stretches beyond the facade of the courtroom scenario but also presents a poignant depiction of America's socio-cultural climate in the 90s.

The film is directed with finesse by Lawrence Schiller, who strives to maintain a neutral standpoint, letting the story unfold without passing judgment on any of the characters. Director Schiller and writer Mailer manage to craft a well-structured narrative that offers a detailed, engrossing examination of one of the most controversial trials in American history without much sensationalism or bias.

In essence, American Tragedy quietly and intensely takes the viewers through an account of the litigation surrounding the O.J Simpson trial. It offers an unbiased, fascinating look at the workings of the defense team and the tactics used both inside and outside the courtroom. Moreover, it explores the impact of race, fame, and the media on the American justice system. As a result, this film serves as more than just a crime drama—it's a dissection of American society, making it an essential watch for anyone interested in the Simpson trial or the American justice system.

American Tragedy is a Drama, TV Movie movie released in 2000. It has a runtime of 170 min. Critics and viewers have rated it moderate reviews, with an IMDb score of 5.4..

5.4/10
Director
Lawrence Schiller
Stars
Ving Rhames, Ron Silver, Bruno Kirby, Raymond Forchion, Christopher Plummer, Richard Cox
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