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...And Justice for All (1979)

aka ...And Justice for All

Directed By: 
Details: 119 mins · English · R (USA)


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Small Arthur Kirkland
Small Judge Francis Rayford
Small Judge Henry T. Fleming
Small Gail Packer
Small Grandpa Sam
Small Jay Porter
Small Arnie
No_movie_poster Ralph Agee
Small Jeff McCullaugh (as Thomas Waites)
No_movie_poster Warren Fresnell
Small Frank Bowers
Small Carl Travers
No_movie_poster Leo Fauci
No_movie_poster Officer Leary
No_movie_poster Elderly Man
No_movie_poster Larry
Small Prison Doctor
Small Deputy Sheriff


Small Barry Levinson Writer
No_movie_poster John F. Burnett Editor
No_movie_poster Dave Grusin Original Music Composer
No_movie_poster Norman Jewison Director
No_movie_poster Victor J. Kemper Director of Photography
No_movie_poster Valerie Curtin Writer
No_movie_poster Norman Jewison Production
No_movie_poster Patrick J. Palmer Production
No_movie_poster John F. Burnett Editing


Arthur Kirkland (Al Pacino) is a defense attorney in Baltimore. As the film opens, he is in jail on a charge of contempt of court for having thrown a punch at judge Henry T. Fleming (John Forsythe) while arguing the case of an innocent defendant, Jeff McCullaugh (Thomas G. Waites), who was stopped for a minor traffic offense but then mistaken for a killer of the same name and convicted and has already spent a year and a half in jail, as Kirkland continues his efforts to have the case reviewed against Fleming's resistance. Though there is strong new evidence that Jeff is innocent, Fleming refuses McCullaugh's appeal due to a minor technicality and leaves him in prison.

Arthur takes another case, that of transgender woman Ralph Agee (Robert Christian), who is guilty of a small crime and becomes a victim of the legal system. Arthur also pays regular nursing home visits to his grandfather Sam (Lee Strasberg), who is becoming senile. It is revealed that Arthur was abandoned by his parents at a young age, and it was Sam who raised him and put him through law school. Arthur also begins a romance with a legal ethics committee member, Gail Packer (Christine Lahti).

One day, Arthur is shocked to find himself requested to defend Fleming, who to everyone's surprise has been accused of rape. The two loathe each other, but Fleming feels that everyone will believe he is innocent if the person publicly known to hate him also argues his innocence. Fleming uses blackmail, telling Kirkland an old violation of lawyer-client confidentiality will be reviewed by the ethics committee, and Arthur likely will be disbarred if he refuses to represent Fleming. Gail confirms this off the record.

An eccentric judge named Rayford (Jack Warden), who has a friendly relationship with Kirkland, takes Arthur for a hair-raising ride in his personal Bell 47 helicopter over the harbor and Fort McHenry, laughing as he tests how far they can possibly go without running out of fuel, while Arthur begs him to land the helicopter immediately. Rayford, a veteran of the Korean War, is possibly suicidal and keeps a rifle in his chambers at the courthouse, a 1911 pistol in his shoulder holster at all times and eats his lunch out on the ledge outside his window, four stories up.

Arthur's friend and partner, Jay Porter (Jeffrey Tambor), is also unstable. He feels guilt from gaining acquittals for defendants who were truly guilty of violent crimes and gets drunk and goes to Arthur's apartment when one commits another murder. Later, he shaves his head. After a breakdown at the courthouse, Jay is taken to a hospital accompanied by Arthur. Before leaving in the ambulance, a distracted Arthur calls Warren Fresnell (Larry Bryggman), another lawyer friend and partner to handle Ralph's court hearing in his absence. Arthur gives Warren a corrected version of Ralph's probation report and stresses that Warren must show the corrections to the judge so that Ralph will get probation rather than being sent to jail. Unfortunately, Warren forgets to appear on time, fails to show the judge the corrected report, and Ralph is sentenced to jail. Arthur is livid and attacks Warren's car with his briefcase in retaliation to get his attention. Warren argues that Ralph's trial was nothing but "nickels and dimes" and beneath him, before Arthur reminds him that "they're people". He then reveals that 30 minutes after he was sentenced, Ralph hanged himself, causing Warren to feel remorse.

His other client, Jeff, abused by fellow prisoners (including multiple rapes), snaps one day and takes two hostages. Arthur pleads with him to surrender, promising to get him out, but the police shoot and kill Jeff after he stands up, providing a shot for a police sharpshooter, as Arthur looks on in horror.

A clearly disturbed Arthur takes on Fleming's case, which Rayford and a jury will hear in court. Arthur acquires from another client, Carl, incriminating photographs that show Fleming in BDSM acts with a prostitute. Gail warns him not to betray a client. He shows the pictures to Fleming, who then freely admits that he is guilty of the rape.

Disgusted with his situation, Arthur goes to trial. Fleming makes a sleazy remark to Arthur about wanting to rape the victim again, which finally pushes Kirkland to the breaking point. In his opening statement, Arthur begins by mocking the case of the prosecuting attorney (Craig T. Nelson) while speaking of the ultimate objective of the American legal system. He appears to be making a strong case to exonerate Fleming but unexpectedly, he bursts out and says that prosecution is not going to get Fleming, because he is going to get him. Arthur tells the jury, "My client, the honorable Henry T. Fleming, should go right to fucking jail! The son of a bitch is guilty!"

The courtroom erupts and the presiding judge Rayford, the prosecution, and the others in the court room, including Gail, are enraged and flabbergasted at the turn of events. The judge tells Arthur that he is "out of order" and bangs his gavel to bring the court to order. Arthur replies, "You're out of order! You're out of order! The whole trial's out of order!" Arthur is dragged away, continuing to shout his rage all the way out the door and to criticize Fleming for his and the legal system's abuse of law and order that cost the lives of his two clients and let true criminals like Fleming go free to commit more crimes. As the courtroom spectators cheer for Arthur, Fleming sits down in defeat, and a fed-up Rayford walks down from his bench.

In the end, Arthur sits on the court's steps, all by himself, weary from his breakdown but satisfied, knowing that his antics will probably cost him his practice and career in law but will presumably finally put Fleming in jail. Jay, who has just been released from the mental hospital, climbs up the long steps, tipping his toupee like a hat and greets him before walking inside the court building.