The Chamber (1996)


Dave’s 3-Word Review:
Kinda boring, Grisham.

As I recently stated, I’ve been going through the John Grisham movies list. I’ve actually seen most of these movies, but I can’t say I remember all of them. The three I’ve reviewed are A Time to Kill, The Client, and Christmas with the Kranks. And I just finished watching The Chamber. A few facts about this story: I do own the book, and I have read part of it…I am pretty sure I never finished the book though. I have also seen the movie, but it was so long ago that I really didn’t remember the story. So, I decided to get that out of the way and check it out once more.

The story is a somewhat interesting one, introducing us to death row inmate Sam Cayhall, who was put in prison several years ago for blowing up a building with two young children inside. The thing is, his grandson decides to represent him when no one else will. There’s some question as to if he actually did the crime he was accused of, but at the same time, it’s well known that the old man is a hardcore racist…so he’s not a pleasant man. So it raises the question that…does a crime define character if the character is already known to be evil? Basically, okay he might not have done it…but he is still a monster, and ethics say he deserves that gas chamber. So his grandson basically has a long fight ahead of him, as this is his first capital punishment case.

As I’ve said before, people often think of Grisham as the “legal thriller” writer, but not much else. I feel like I know him well enough to define his style, which is more complex than that. He loves to write stories that are compelling because they are different and have a lot of ethical questioning strewn throughout. Gene Hackman is amazing as the racist old man, but the very fact that this isn’t the release the innocent prisoner from prison…it’s suddenly a whole new ballpark isn’t it? The man is guilty, but does he deserve this fate? It is honestly a great story, I just don’t think it had the best presentation of that story.

I feel like the characters have a solid foundation, and in a different light, they could be amazing, lovable characters. But I couldn’t help but think…I don’t care about them. Either Gene Hackman dies or he doesn’t…but neither will actually affect me. It turned more melodramatic than thriller, and it just wasn’t the best movie in the world. Suddenly, I know why I stopped reading the book and why I couldn’t really remember the movie. It’s just not memorable. Plain and simple. Chris O’Donnell…ehhh he’s not the best actor in the world. He did his best, but his best just wasn’t good enough.

I’m actually disappointed because I feel like I can sense the heart of this story as if it deserves better, and I think it does. Not because it’s John Grisham, but because Grisham tells captivating stories that have a lot of heart. This wasn’t my favorite book, obviously, but I don’t think I’ve ever really run into a book of his I’ve actually hated. This movie could have clearly been better. It just…wasn’t. I’ll just leave it at that, because I don’t know what else to say.

The Good:

Somewhere deep down, The Chamber shows that all-too-familiar heart and soul John Grisham is often seen accompanied with. It has an interesting case.

The Bad:

However interesting the case is, it’s not captivating. You don’t really care how it ends, even though the whole film was about the ending. That’s not good.

Memorable Quote:

Sam Cayhall: If you spend half as much time trying to be a lawyer instead of trying to be Dick Tracy, I might not be dead in five days.



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