Wow, the poster makes this film look more like a satire on how marketing tries to cool things up too much, because they really did go out of their way to make this film look more exciting than it is, because it stars Al Pacino and has a really emphatic title (They went ahead and put the "..." at the beginning of the title as though it really were a stinger) that sounds more fitting for a B-action film, or at least an action film that's more likely to star Arnold Schwarzenegger. Man, Schwarzenegger would make a really cool lawyer, but lord knows that I wouldn't want him to represent me, because not even a lot of the films that he's been in are credible, and I'd imagine that he would be in the middle of the courtroom gunning everyone down and saying something like, "Court adjourned", only you wouldn't be able to hear him through, well, the gunfire, but also that thick accent. No, I want a lawyer who believes in preserving justice and is firm, thorough and effective "before" he begins shooting up the place while yelling one-liners in a super thick accent, so I'm going with Al Pacino here. In case you didn't get it people, Pacino did this film a couple of years before he donned a scar and Cuban accent for "Scarface", so don't go thinking that this film started a lengthy streak of deeply dramatic films, partially because this film is mainly a satirical dark comedy, or that this film is as exciting as the scenario mentioned above. This film can drop obvious self-jokes all it wants and Pacino can scream, "You're out of order!" all he wants, but at the end of the day, if Norman Jewison doesn't have a musical about Jesus, then he doesn't really know what to do to keeps things fun. Eh, whatever, this film still makes for a pretty decent watch, and actually isn't all that dull of a courtroom film, so don't go expecting this to be like the courtroom drama that Pacino's buddy Francis Coppola went on to do with Matt Damon. I actually liked "The Rainmaker" more than this film, it's just that it seriously needed to pick up the pace, and while that's something to be said about this film, I wouldn't stress it as much, though I would still stress it, nevertheless, which isn't to say that slowness is the only fault found in this film.
Based on my opener's underemphasis on the film's being a satirical dark comedy, I'd imagine that you're expecting this film to be subtle in its satirical bite, when really, it rarely gives you an opportunity to forget that it's almost mostly a comedy, yet doesn't do so in the most even of fashions. The film's level of satirical subtlety is often rather inconsistent, with the satire having points where it incorporates light but noticable absurdity into its more relatively grounded moments, then turning right around to go well over the top in a fashion that both dilutes satirical effectiveness, as things do get to be a bit too absurd, and drives a fairly off-putting unevenness into the humor. Needless to say, once dramatic aspects fall into play, they're even less organic in their incorporation amidst such obvious humor, as much of the drama gets to be really serious, yet because of the messy transition into such drama, dramatic punch goes slowed down a bit, and it doesn't help that the drama occasionally gets to be a bit sentimental. Still, if nothing else is consistent about the film, then it is, of course, slowness, as the film often quietly limps along with loosely edited moments of either dry dialogue or simply nothingness. What further slows down the film, both in oomph and even story, are a fair couple of scenes that are entirely cuttable and only drag down the momentum of the story to the point of leaving plot to all but fall out entirely for a moment. The film is a dull and limp one that drags along excessively, with only so much consistency in its should-be compensating satire for it to bite all that deeply all that often However, the film doesn't limp its messy little self down to mediocre, for although it is an absolute mess of a slow watch, it's still a watch worth sitting through, being supported by a fair couple of undeniable strengths, one of which being, in fact, the very humor that is so messily handled.
As I said earlier, the inconsistency in subtlety within the humor often dilutes both the bite of the satire and amusement value of the joke, and a couple of jokes just plain fall flat on their face, yet quite often, the humor strikes, whether it be one of those slow-burn subtler ones that settle in and stick with you, or one of those unexpected broad ones that strike from out of nowhere and may even leave you laughing fairly hard. Also, while the satire's effectiveness goes held back by both the messy direction of the film and the messiness of the humor behind the satire, it does cut through from time to time and leaves your eyes to fold open to a flaw in the justice system that you never really thought about, and while this film most likely won't shake your faith in court justice too much, you're still bound to walk away with material to chew on and think about. Some of your more relatively dramatic aspects, while often handled ever so messily, will have moments where it really does pierce and supplements the thought-provoking value of the film, giving it some more weight and effectiveness. Really, there is plenty about this film that is rather forgettable, being that the film is ultimately so underwhelming, yet it still plenty of memorable aspects that do genuinely stick with you. Among the handful of memorable aspects in this film are a couple of characters, and for that, credit goes out to Valerie Curtin and Barry Levinson for writing some colorful personalities, as well as out to the performers for giving the more memorable characters such life, whether it be through charm or even some unexpected emotional intensity. Obviously, leading man Al Pacino really owns the show as Arthur Kirkland, bubbling with a very engaging, somewhat down-to-earth charisma that earns your investment in him as a charming lead, while eventual consistent bursts of incredible emotional range and layers unveil depth within our lead that makes him even more compelling and gives this film some additional weight. If nothing else, you'll walk away feeling rather charmed by the film, as it is an innocently ambitious effort that may get to be much too messy, but satisfies perhaps more of its ambitions than not.
Bottom line, the film is considerably uneven, both in its tone and its level of satirical subtlety, and with extreme slowness - made so intense by a dry atmosphere, extreme looseness over dull dialogue and nothingness, as well as even the occasional lapse in plot focus - further pulling back the bite of this film, the final product comes out limping as an underwhelming experience, yet still one reasonably worth having, as it hits quite a few humorous notes, while the satire will find points in which it bites and leaves you with material worth pondering upon, and with moments of genuine dramatic effectiveness and a colorful cast of charmers - headed by an immensely charismatic and, eventually, deeply emotionally inspired and exceptionally layered Al Pacino - giving the effectiveness of the final product an extra kick of memorable aspects, "...And Justice For All" ultimately emerges a generally enjoyable, if not rather provocative darkly satirical, when not dramatically impacting portrait on the justice system, even if it, like the very justice system it's poking fun at, has quite a few glaring faults.
2.5/5 - Fair