Gary Oldman is Ben Chase, a hotshot defense attorney who graduated from Harvard and now practices law in Boston. That means that he gets to have a Boston accent and you know how much Gary Oldman loves playing a role with an accent. Ben also has a pompadour because Gary Oldman always has something weird going on with his hair in almost every film he appears in.
Ben’s latest client is Martin Thiel (Kevin Bacon), a sociopathic rich kid who has been accused of murder. Even though Ben thinks that Martin is probably guilty, he still gets Martin off the hook. As soon as Martin get his acquittal, he starts murdering again. Ben feels responsible so he decides that what he needs to do is trick Martin into implicating himself. However, Martin knows what Ben is planning so, instead, he decides to frame Ben for the murders. Somehow, it all links back to Martin’s feelings about abortion. I guess Martin is against abortion or maybe he’s for it. It was hard to keep track. I watched the movie and I’m still not sure I followed everything that I saw. It’s not that the plot is diabolically clever. It’s just that it’s so incoherent that not a single plot point logically follows from another.
The film experiments with suggesting that there’s some sort of deeper connection between Martin and Ben. Martin is obsessed with Ben and when Ben is in bed with his girlfriend, he briefly imagines that she’s turned into Martin and has a good old-fashioned freak out as a result. It doesn’t make any sense. First off, you have to believe that Ben can’t tell the difference between Kevin Bacon and his girlfriend. Secondly, you have to then accept that Ben — a HARVARD GRADUATE — is so stupid that he would actually believe that his girlfriend had suddenly transformed into Kevin Bacon and must now be strangled.
Criminal Law is a film that you may be tempted to watch because of the pairing of Kevin Bacon and Gary Oldman but you’d be better off just watching JFK again. They’re both great actors and and it’s always interesting to see them cast against type but neither one of them is particularly good in Criminal Law. They’re let down by a script that doesn’t allow either one to create a consistent character. Sometimes, Martin is a soulless attorney and other times, he’s a panicky social justice crusader. Sometimes, Kevin Bacon is a clever sociopath and, other times, he’s just your typical mindless movie slasher.
On the plus side, Joe Don Baker is in this mess, playing a cop. Joe Don Baker has played so many cops in so many bad movies that I wonder if he’s ever been tempted to try to arrest someone in real life. In Criminal Law, he’s not given much to do but it doesn’t matter. He’s Joe Don Baker!