Music Box - Movie Reviews - Rotten Tomatoes

Music Box Reviews

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May 23, 2016
An riveting thought-provoking political family slash courtroom drama about an attorney's gruelling inquiry into her father's Nazi past culminates in a shocking discovery in the titular coffer.
½ May 14, 2016
A montagem é problemática e o roteiro demora a colocar a narrativa nos trilhos. Mas a atuação de Jessica Lange e o segundo ato melhoram o nível.
½ February 11, 2016
Music Box completely fails to address its themes, lacking any kind of emotion and not having any purpose - but it's biggest flaw is not being able to catch up with Jessica Lange's committed performance whose talent was totally wasted.
½ October 20, 2015
The intention was good. The actors performed well. What's lacking was that the movie itself was too dull. It had no plot-twisters, no suspenses, or nothing that could fully entertain its viewers. From the moment I saw that our law-abiding citizen, Michael Laszlo, was accused of Nazi collaborationist, I knew he would be proven as a Nazi, and that his daughter would find it out as the movie progresses. My thought turned out to be exactly true. For me, Music Box only took the "easy way out." The plot was too dull. Remember, this is a movie, not our everyday lives, and movies are intended to entertain its audiences. If that checkbox has been left out, I simply cannot give this movie a good value.
½ August 2, 2015
Jessica Lange is great as always and the court room seems are really great but overall this movie is a little too long and isn't remarkably captivating like it should be. The supporting cast does a good job well too
½ November 20, 2014
***Due to the recent RT changes that have basically ruined my past reviews, I am mostly only giving a rating rather than a full review.***
½ June 26, 2014
The story is nothing special but the acting is excellent.
Super Reviewer
½ January 13, 2014
Armin Mueller Stahl is fantastic as the man who may or may not have had a despicable past. The reveal is the highlight of the film. Lange was Oscar nominated but she has done better.
October 8, 2013
Music Box (Costa-Gavras, 1989)
[originally posted 16May2000]

This movie had every possible ingredient one could put together to come up with a film I don't like. The annoying Jessica Lange in the lead role. Armin Mueller-Stahl while on the downward slide. (If you don't believe me, check out the last, say, ten or so things he's done at imdb. Then come back and tell me I'm wrong.) Writing by the abominable Joe Eszterhas (Basic Instinct, Jade, Showgirls) and direction by Costa-Gavras in his "I'm such an artist I can drop my first name!" phase. Yep-- with the exception of Julia Roberts and Kevin Costner showing up, this one has every last ingredient to make it a perfectly awful film. So why isn't it?

This is the weirdly absorbing tale of a Hungarian immigrant charged with war crimes forty years after coming to America; his daughter, who also happens to be his lawyer; her son, the closest member of the family to the immigrant (quite ably played by Mueller-Stahl; Lukas Haas plays the kid); the annoying son (Michael Rooker's best performance since Henry, and perhaps his last good one to date); the annoying prosecuting attorney (slimily done to the hilt by the always-invigorating Frederic Forrest); and perhaps some of the best, if least believable, courtroom-drama scenes this side of Law and Order.

I say "weirdly absorbing" because there's really nothing out of the ordinary about this tale, aside from the fact that some otherwise-workmanlike actors turned in the performances of their careers in this movie, the writing is so unlike Eszterhas' usual tripe that one suspects a ghostwriter, and Costa-Gravas (whose first name, if you want to piss him off, is Konstantinos) must have thought he was directing in Europe, because he never made another American film this good. The character sketches are kept simple, and yet they're not parodies; questions are raised and answered, but the movie never becomes an easily-categorizable whodunit; and everyone is just so damn believable that it all works. Score one for the guys who never did anything right before. ***
July 16, 2013
Never forgive! Always remember what they did to us!
June 23, 2013
Compelling thriller about Nazi war criminal conviction, the daughter of a man who faces deportation from America when accused of such charges must find evidences to support her own father. Costa-Garvas' film is a haunting and sometimes disturbing exploration of the darkness of one's past, as well as the way in which it can come back to haunt people. Lange's performance is excellent.
February 25, 2012
The Danube Isn't Blue, It's Red

Ultimately, our assumptions about the guilt or innocence of the character in this movie is not about anything the movie does or doesn't tell us about him. They would not bother telling us the story at all if he were an innocent man, and we know that. It has happened that innocents have been put on trial for war crimes, but there isn't much of a story to that most of the time. It's hard to build up a sense of righteous indignation over it unless you also fail to believe that the accused crime was that big a deal in the first place. Otherwise, you are determined that someone must pay, and as long as the wrong person isn't convicted, that's better than the crime's having been ignored. So we know how the story is likely to go. However, we don't believe what the outcome will be because of what we know about the character, because we don't really know anything about the character. You can make that work; this movie didn't.

Ann Talbot (Jessica Lange) is a high-powered attorney. One day, her father is informed that he is to stand trial for having lied on his citizenship papers. During the war, he was a Hungarian policeman--and, the accusation says, a member of a group with the purpose of rounding up and executing Jews and Gypsies and so forth, machinery for the Holocaust. Her father, Michael Laszlo (Armin Mueller-Stahl), admits that he was in the [i]gendarmerie[/i], but he denies categorically that he was part of the Special Section. He insists on standing trial, and he insists that his daughter defend him. She is a criminal lawyer, not immigration, but she knows her father must be innocent and so agrees. This is one of a series of bad decisions on her part. Prosecution attorney Jack Burke (Frederic Forrest) brings forth witness after witness to testify about the man who committed so many atrocities back in Hungary; Ann claims it's all a conspiracy against a noted anti-Communist.

The fact is, Ann never really has a crisis of conscience. Not really. She believes her father implicitly. He can't be a monster. Obviously, these things happened, and she is horrified when she finds out that her father is telling her son (Lukas Haas) that they are exaggerated, that the Holocaust is exaggerated. But she goes from believing every word her father said to an improbable discovery of the truth with no real intervening emotional development. I think the story might have been worth telling had it been a gradual realization, something she couldn't deny to herself any longer, not because she saw proof but because the gradual awareness that the evidence wasn't all faked came over her. There is a story in that, but it would have taken work, and this movie is more interested in the cheap emotional gut-shot, as evidenced by the ending. I mean, it never dawned on this woman that just saying, "Oh, the Communists faked everything" isn't really the same as evidence? And she's a lawyer?

Similarly, the story of a man with a secret eating at him might be worth telling. Or the story of a man who really is a monster but who knows he must hide it if he is going to go one having the life he wants to live. Armin Mueller-Stahl hardly gets any lines at all through the center of the picture, and when he finally does speak again, it is to deliver some rant about the Communists' poisioning her mind and how no one will believe her. The movie isn't about him; it's about her. Because it is about her, the movie does not, it seems, feel the need to develop anyone else. But you have to wonder, right? I mean, don't you? What would a person like this be like? What would they go through? How would what they did during the war change them as a person, change how they raised their family? The bit about how he told his grandson that the Holocaust was an exaggeration is the only real character development we get for the entire hour and a half in the middle.

It's always frustrating to me when I can see better movies embedded in things I'm watching. Jessica Lange gives a fine performance when she has something to work with. It's nice to see Michael Rooker not killing anyone. And again, there are at least a dozen places I could have gone to give this movie some real emotional depth. But for all we're intended to see the possible Communist plot as a red herring, it still overwhelms the movie. No, Michael Laszlo isn't being unjustly accused because of an anti-Communist action five years earlier. But it could still be why he's being accused, even though he did it. Presumably he got involved with the fascists because he thought they were better than the Communists, but that's only an assumption on my part. We don't know, because we don't know what's going on in any character's head. They are all going through the motions, because the script fails to breathe even a little life into them. Movies like this are the only kind which ought to be remade--ones where you can make them better.
January 17, 2012
A very heart-wrenching story that looks at the idea of how a daughter who loves her father so much has to see the true criminal past that consumed his past....
½ April 17, 2011
This mindblowing drama has some of the best performances ever given by Jessica Lange and the best ever Armin Mueller Stahl who was robbed of an Oscar.
February 26, 2011
Loved it! Very well shown ethical struggle in a conflict with the Eastern European family values.
January 26, 2010
A touching story of a young lawyer defending her immigrant father of crimes against humanity in court. Ms. Jessica Lange is absolutely lovely and tugs at your heart strings with ease.
½ September 19, 2009
Weak script (sorry, Eszterhas) to begin with and thus the story leaks fundamental essence and the characters lack depth (despite the emotion father-daughter bond). The performances, esp. that of J. Lange, are great, yet, not enough to carry out the job on the story.
Super Reviewer
½ May 31, 2009
Not sure how I came across this movie to put on my list but I am glad I did/ Armin Muller-Stahl plays as usual an excellent part of a father who is accused of WWII war crimes. Living in the United Sates he is faced with being sent back to Hungary. Jessica Lange plays the daughter who is a lawyer and has decided to defend her father. Why Jessica Lange is not listed in the cast on this page is beyond me, another Flixster goof? A twist at the end, that I will not give away, but that all can see coming after about the 1st hr. Even though Jessica was awarded a Oscar for her performance, I can't give more then 3 1/2 stars, that doesn't mean this film is not worth watching at least once. If your a WWII Buff you might rate it higher
February 11, 2009
Berlin Film Festival 90' Golden Bear
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