DVD Review - The Whole Truth

Keanu Reeves (John Wick and The Matrix) stars as Richard Ramsay, a defense attorney who is defending a teenage boy accused of murdering his father. It is reminiscent of a film that came twenty years prior and that was Primal Fear (1996). The murder case in that movie has quite a few similarities to the case in this movie. It's not as well-written or as well-acted. Granted, the 1996 film had the benefit of being based on a well-thought out novel, as well as powerhouse actors like Richard Gere, Laura Linney, Frances McDormand and Andre Braugher, and even Edward Norton in his first feature film. It's perhaps unfair to compare Norton's performance to the one here because he was given such a juicy role, a juicier role. Norton played a murder suspect with multiple personalities. The comparable character, here, played by Gabriel Basso, doesn't have multiple personalities. He's basically mute, so it's hard to engage with him.

Renée Zellweger (Bridget Jones's Diary and Chicago) co-stars as Loretta Lassiter, the wife of a wealthy, Louisiana lawyer who finds herself verbally and physically abused. Yet, she hasn't left her hurtful husband. When her son is put on trial for patricide, the murder of said husband, she becomes very protective yet exhibits what might be considered odd behavior. Zellweger is good as this New Orleans woman with heirs and privilege but with definite demons and fears.

Gugu Mbatha-Raw (Concussion and Beyond the Lights) also co-stars as Janelle Brady, the up-and-coming lawyer who joins the case to assist Richard. She has a lot to learn about trial law and how to handle a murder case and the people surrounding it. What's crucial is her being able to ferret out liars and how to react to them.

Watching her gain her footing as a trial lawyer is a good, little journey for her. Watching her uncover details about the case that were hidden is also interesting. It's simply not enough to distinguish this movie from the pack of other films and TV shows in the same vein. The recent HBO series The Night Of had a similar, little journey for a young, female lawyer, played by Amara Karan, that was more compelling.

What probably made that HBO series more compelling is that it was more about building character and deeper nuances with how people are in certain situations. This movie is more about plot, and moving from plot-point to next plot-point. The characters here are chess pieces, or more like checker pieces being slid across a game board.

Reeves isn't asked to do much. Nor is he given much. It's certainly not as fleshed out a character as Gere's character in Primal Fear. This is perhaps purposeful. It's meant to leave a limited impression of David, so that the movie can shock us at the end, which is fine. It makes for a fairly decent legal back-and-forth.

Rated R for language and some violence, including a sexual assault.
Running Time: 1 hr. and 33 mins.


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