Released as America was still haunted by the Watergate hearings — and opening
with a series of children's voices reciting the Pledge of Allegiance — "... And
Justice for All" works as a high-tension courtroom drama ... more of corruption and
principle. What makes it unforgettable is Al Pacino's work as a Baltimore lawyer
as burnt-out as he is passionate. Pacino's Arthur Kirkland is caught between a
rock and a hard place — forced to defend a judge he despises on a rape charge —
but while Pacino's ranted speech ("You're out of order! You're out of order! The
whole trial is out of order!") may be what people remember from the film, it's a
far better movie, and far better performance, than that loud memory suggests.
When we meet Kirkland, he's in jail — for contempt of court — and while he's
soon released, he's never far from ruin, and Pacino's work is what makes
Kirkland's torment matter. With a great roster of supporting players (including
Jack Warden, Jeffrey Tambor and Craig T. Nelson), "... And Justice
for All" is a raucous, righteous '70s-styled portrait of a legal system — and
lawyer — in crisis.