Movie Review - 6 Angry Women (Portland Film Festival)

There have been quite a few remakes or homages to the classic film 12 Angry Men (1957). The most recent was an episode of Inside Amy Schumer, which instead of being a searing look at the jury process as it crosses the line with prejudice, bias and bigotry, while also exposing American cultural and socioeconomic issues, the episode digs into sexism.

This movie, written and directed by Sridhar M. Reddy, isn't a spoof, and despite its title doesn't make any distinctions about womanhood. It simply has half the characters and only two-thirds of the time.

Reddy presents the movie in a 4:3 aspect ratio and in black-and-white. Whether she shot the film in this format is unknown, but she presents it in this format, much like Inside Amy Schumer, obviously to invoke the look and feel of the original film. Even though Reddy's story has half the number of cast members, it still has the same dynamics and character beats as in the movie.

The original film, written by Reginald Rose, had twelve jurors who weren't given names. They were only given numbers. Reddy does the same, except with only six. In the original film, they were given a murder case to deliberate. We aren't shown any of the trial. The story instead begins in the jury room with all the jurors needing to vote guilty or not guilty for the accused murderer.

At the start, all the jurors vote guilty, except for one and that person is Juror 8, played by Henry Fonda. As the film plays out, Juror 8 has to argue his case until he convinces all the others to vote the opposite. He does so with everyone. He changes all their minds, except for one and that person is Juror 3, played by Lee J. Cobb.

This movie follows the same formula. Alexandra Bennett stars as Juror 4 who is the Henry Fonda-equivalent, and, Fawzia Mirza co-stars as Juror 3, the Lee J. Cobb-equivalent. Again, the same dynamics and character beats play out here as in the 1957 film, the way in which the reversals happen echo or ape the 1957 film almost exactly.

There is one key and significant difference. The case that the jury of six women has to deliberate isn't to exonerate an innocent man. It's to exonerate a man whom there is no doubt committed a murder. In fact, the case in question is a fictionalized version of a real-life case that made a lot of news a couple of years ago.

On February 26, 2012, George Zimmerman at age 28 shot and killed Trayvon Martin at age 17. Zimmerman claimed he acted in self-defense. Many in opposition claimed he scared and provoked the unarmed, black teenager. Many believed Zimmerman was the instigator and should have been punished for it. Except, Zimmerman's trial resulted in him walking away scot-free. The incident, the process and aftermath caused a lot of protests and debates about the specific, Florida law that allowed Zimmerman to walk.

That Florida law is referred to as the "Stand Your Ground" law. In some states, it's referred to as the Castle law. In those states, the Castle law makes sense as it applies to someone using deadly force to protect his home from invaders. The Stand-Your-Ground law applies to someone using deadly force to protect himself outside the home on the street or in a public space. Those against the law claim that it's disproportionately applied so that black people don't benefit, and typically, if not always, leaves black people on the short end of the stick.

It's the Florida law and this murder case that the six jurors in this movie argue. Of course, the names, George Zimmerman and Trayvon Martin, are never spoken. The state of Florida is never identified either. It's all speculative, but the details otherwise about everything else are specific enough that it could be no other case on Earth or at least in the United States.

Unfortunately, the goal of Reddy's movie is to land on the same verdict as the jurors of the Zimmerman case, of which there were six too. Therefore, the goal of Reddy's movie is to mount a defense for the Stand-Your-Ground law, which is in real-life where Zimmerman's jurors ended up. The problem is that it flies in the face of the original film and is rather offensive to the original's spirit.

At the same time, the arguments that Juror 4 makes aren't convincing. She's the one defending the Zimmerman-like character, referred to as "the watchmen," which is itself a reference to the fact that Zimmerman was part of the neighborhood watch, but her arguments aren't thoroughly convincing.

Bennett attempts to exude the same gravitas as Fonda, but she can't succeed because she isn't fighting against unjust bias or racism. She's fighting for an admittedly, ugly and zealous law and an admittedly, overly zealous man who, no matter what, killed a child. She will never have the moral equivalence that Fonda did. Fonda's character was all about saving a child's life and reputation, not condemning that child to death.

What's truly terrible is that even though Juror 4's arguments aren't convincing, all the other jurors capitulate as if they were. Juror 4 makes all these pronouncements about what a jury is supposed to do as if her statements are gospel and they're not. She apparently knows nothing about jury nullification. Yet, all the other jurors go along. That's what's most offensive, and what's truly baffling is that Juror 3 even delivers a heartbreaking speech at the end, which seems to cement her position, but she capitulates too, and it makes no sense.

One Star out of Five.
Not Rated but for mature audiences.
Running Time: 1 hr. and 10 mins.
Reviewed for Portland Film Festival.
For more information, go to


  1. Hi Marlon,

    Thank you for the review of my film. I wanted to take some time to refute what you interpreted in the film. The film intentionally is an inverse of 12 Angry Men - where in the original, the verdict progressed from injustice to justice, and in this case the verdict went from justice to injustice. The rationale behind this wasn't, as you interpreted, to mount a defense of Stand Your Ground, but rather to show how suffocating and rigged it is. That each of these women were unable to mount a defense AGAINST the wording of the law - and the conundrum that they face of being held responsible to upholding the law - was the primary challenge they all faced. If they were to vote against Stand Your Ground, then they would be breaking the law, no matter how absurd that law was. If you recall, one of the jurors argues that once upon a time it was legal to own slaves, it was legal to not allow women to vote, so when we talk about what is legal, it doesn't automatically equate to what is justice.

    This is not a defense of Stand Your Ground, it is a dissection of the injustice of what it represents, of how powerless we are to the laws that essentially amount to New Black Codes. It is a bleak message, which you are correct is the antitheses of the original. I wanted to show that despite the best intentions, the responsibility of the jury was to uphold the law - which is Juror 4's point - even if that law is rooted in prejudice. This is EXACTLY what happened in the cases of Trayvon, Eric Garner, Michael Brown, Amadou Diallo, Shawn Bell and so many others. Juries are powerless to laws, as they cannot ratify or defy them. I wanted to show that powerlessness. It would have been unfair of me to have them come to a verdict that found the watchman guilty of murder because that's not how the laws are written. This is the discussion we need to be having, which was the point of the film, which is different than the point of 12 Angry Men.

    It just as upsetting to me that the jury in my film could not rationalize their way out of Stand Your Ground, because they were torn between doing what was legal versus what was justice. But this is what is happening now. To show them voting otherwise would be disingenuous to what the truth of current condition is. This is the sentiment echoed by the lone Latina jurori n the Martin trial, as in an interview on Good Morning America, she stated that she ultimately had to abide by the wording of the law, DESPITE of what her heart and soul told her(

    I hope this makes you see the film in a different light. This is not 12 Angry Men. This is an entirely different beast, one that reflects the how justice is handled in todays legal environment. The game is rigged, the laws of the land are rigged, and the juries are charged with interpreting those laws. Thank you for your time and for watching the film.

    1. i disagree that the jury was voting for or against the law. they were voting whether or not they thought the "watchmen" was acting in accordance to that law, and that is subjective, as is pointed out by Juror 3, so they wouldn't be breaking the law. They would be offering up a verdict one way or the other.

      For example, I wonder why in this movie, the Marissa Alexander case was never brought up, or referenced. If your point was to show the injustice of the law, why not do a movie about the jury of the Marissa Alexander case? Was the jury powerless in that case?

    2. Subjective, yes - but within the context of what evidence is available. This is the crux of the frustration of Stand Your Ground, which is that it requires evidence to support that one was in imminent danger. As in the cases of Trayvon and Michael Brown, there was plenty to prove that they were murdered, but nothing to demonstrate that Stand Your Ground could have applied to them. The burden of proof is upon those who no longer have a voice, which makes cases like these infuriating. I wanted to demonstrate that conundrum, hence there is no redemptive ending to the film. The women struggle with the evidence that supports the execution of Stand Your Ground, and try their very best to debunk the law. Juror 1 even says "I may not have proof, but I do have a conscience," when she suggests nullification.

      I did not use the Alexander case because it would have provided a legal precedent which would have shut down the case in favor of the shooter immediately (her jury came to their conclusion in under 30 minutes). It's only until much later she was released from prison. Also in her case both parties lived to defend their case. In the case of so many of these shootings, the rights of the living trump the rights of the dead, and I wanted to show that in the film.

      BTW I have no say in whether you like the movie or not, as that is your perogative. But I think these discussions are healthy and it was the sole intent of my making the film, which I shot in six days with an improvised script. I want people to talk about the absurdity of the law and the "objectivity" of juries, especially when it comes to cases involving the civil rights of people of color. Given your previous blog posts, I know we're on the same side in this debate. I simply chose to show the futility of the the case instead of showing some kind of redemptive action, because right now, as long as Stand Your Ground exists in its current iteration, there is no redemptive action. The game is rigged against POC and the poor. Juror 4 was not meant to be altruistic as Henry Fonda's character, she, like Juror B37 in Trayvon's case, has her own agenda and biases, just as all the women in the room do. Unlike 12AM, this is not something that can end on a positive note, because none of these cases do. It had to, in my mind, be sobering and frustrating. That absolutely flies in the face of the original, and that was my intent, because the logic used in 12AM could never be used in today's legal environment.

    3. I didn't necessarily need the movie to end on a positive note. It didn't even need to end on a consensus. As I indicated in the last paragraph of my review, I simply never thought Juror 4 was convincing. Her anger seemed unwarranted and it's never indicated as to where it comes from, unlike the other jurors. We never get a sense of Juror 4 that made me convinced that she would come at this from a place of anger. I didn't need her to be altruistic but as it goes, I'm not sure what she's being. I couldn't tell if she were even for the law or not. I got the sneaking sense that she didn't agree with Stand-Your-Ground, but her position on it never felt definitive, which was more problematic for me than even the ending.

      I bring up the Alexander case because that could have been a better angle to come at this. Juror 4 for example could have used that case as a way of compassionately pushing the other jurors into voting for the Stand-Your-Ground law, citing Alexander as an example where S.T.G. is supposed to work but is failed when it comes to people of color.

      You said that you wanted to convey a sense of frustration about the case. I feel as though that sense of frustration should have come through more. I never felt much of anything other than a staunchness from Juror 4 that felt orchestrated by you, the filmmaker, rather than organic to who Juror 4 was as a woman. Juror 4 felt more like an ideal or a thesis statement rather than a fully-fleshed out human being.

      And to me most times it's not about the discussions afterward. It's about the discussions therein. When I'm watching a film, I want to be in many respects wrapped up in the characters and believe in them, and I just failed to do so over and over again here.

      If this movie was meant to be so much unlike '12 Angry Men', then I wish that it wasn't constructed the way that it is. The 1957 film is aped so completely here, visually and otherwise, that comparisons can't help but be made, and those comparisons as you point out might not be helpful because your intention was so different.

    4. If you found Juror 4 unconvincing, then that is your call, and I respect your opinion and right as a critic and viewer. I normally do not write to critics, but in this case I felt the film was not defending Stand Your Ground as you had written, and wanted to make that point. But again that is your right to interpret the film as you see it.

  2. Also - one of the jurors in the film brings up jury nullification, citing it was a force for change in American history. Her plea is shot down under the argument that jury nullification has to be consistently applied, and in the broad spectrum of cases with their ambiguities, it is equally unjust to deny someone the word of the law. If the law is unjust, it should be changed at the legislative level, and not in the jury room.


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