The Chamber 1996

The Chamber

Critics Consensus

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12%

TOMATOMETER

Total Count: 25

39%

Audience Score

User Ratings: 7,367

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Movie Info

Young lawyer Adam Hall (Chris O'Donnell) launches a legal appeal for his racist grandfather, Sam Cayhall (Gene Hackman), a former Ku Klux Klan member he has never met. Accused of killing two young Jewish boys years earlier, Sam meets his grandson in a Mississippi prison on death row, and the atmosphere is tense. Despite having no sympathy for the older man, Adam has other motives for defending his grandfather that have to do with his own father's suicide.

Cast & Crew

Gene Hackman
Sam Cayhall
Faye Dunaway
Lee Cayhall Bowen
Robert Prosky
E. Garner Goodman
Raymond J. Barry
Rollie Wedge, Donnie Cayhall
Bo Jackson
Sgt. Clyde Packer
Lela Rochon
Nora Stark
David Marshall Grant
Gov. David McAllister
David T. Friendly
Executive Producer
Ric Kidney
Executive Producer
Karen Kehela Sherwood
Executive Producer
William Goldman
Screenwriter
Chris Reese
Screenwriter
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Critic Reviews for The Chamber

All Critics (25) | Top Critics (8) | Fresh (3) | Rotten (22)

Audience Reviews for The Chamber

  • Jan 11, 2014
    Hard to watch at times, but very well done. This film could've used better editing, because there's a lot of useless scenes here, but overall, a good film. I haven't read the Grisham novel though, so I can't say if this was a faithful adaptation or not.
    Stephen S Super Reviewer
  • Nov 17, 2010
    The problem with this movie (and Mr. Grisham's book) is that the plot doesn't quite add up. Why would Adam Hall want to save his racist bigot grandfather if he is against racism? Is it because he is more against the death penalty? And why, if Sam Cayhall was a Klansman and a racist, would the black prisoners farewell him like they do? There are too many racist ephithets and scenes that seem like they are glorifying the KKK, which is not presented as boring and stupid (although the Klansmen are presented as the bad guys). This film will leave a bad taste in your mouth. I'd skip it.
    Juli R Super Reviewer
  • Dec 21, 2008
    Nothing annoys me more than sitting through a film I consider to be very good, or perhaps even excellent, and then reading reviews about it afterwards that are wholly negative and often very untrue in their descriptions. "The Chamber," released in 1996, and based on John Grisham's novel from two years earlier, is one such movie. Having read both the book and having seen the film, I draw two conclusions. The first is that I believe the movie to be as good (Perhaps even better) than Grisham's novel. The second is that the movie is a great piece of film-making; one of the most mature, thoughtful and intelligent to have come out of Hollywood in the past few years, especially when one takes into account that it's dealing with some very complex themes and issues. Gene Hackman plays Sam Cayhall, the racist bigot from America's ole' South, whose been on death row for several decades, following his involvement in the unintentional murder of a Jewish family. Cayhall has a month to live, and, just as even he has given up on any hope of a successful appeal, the old man gets a visit from his grandson lawyer, Adam Hall (Competently played by Chris O'Donnell). Adam is determined to get his grandfather off the row (Much to Sam's annoyance), and sets about digging up his family's past in the hope of discovering the truth surrounding the crime that Sam committed. The truly great thing about "The Chamber" (And perhaps something which John Grisham, its author, deserves the credit for) is that right from the opening scenes, we are never unsure about Sam's guilt. He's as guilty as sin. This is unlike Tim Robbin's "Dead Man Walking," (A film which many critics claim is superior and are forever comparing "The Chamber" to), where the audience is almost wrongfully 'Conned' into believing its protagonist's innocence, presumably in the hope of us sympthasing with him all the more. But, with "The Chamber," although Sam Cayhall is a spiteful, hateful and guilty sinner, we sympathise with him because we sympathise with O'Donnells all-too-true belief that he still doesn't deserve to die. After all, how can someone whose been brought up and raised in such a dreadfully racist and hateful environment turn out to be any better than Sam? The film is an important character study, as much as what it is a study of such afore-mentioned important themes(s). It never shies away from dealing with issues such as racism, making the 'Showdown' scene towards the end between Cayhall and one of his sickening 'Admirers' to be all the more brilliant. The film has faults, sure. For instance, Faye Dunaway as Adam's alcoholic Aunt struggles manically, and gives a much too dramatic and theatrical performance for this film. Gene Hackman also has some trouble in a very difficult role, although he's much more effective in the later scenes, where he begins to realise his mistakes. Perhaps the film's biggest mistake is in its failure to develop a proper character out of 'Rollie Wedge' (Robert Prosky), the man who may or may not have been involved in the terrible murder that Sam is now on death row for. I rarely cry in movie, but I cry every time I watch "The Chamber;" not just during the suitably hard-to-watch and claustrophobic closing scenes, but also during the final sequences between Sam and his grandaughter. It's a truly touching piece of film-making, and a very thought provoking and intelligent one. If only a better director had been at the helm, and the odd performance had been touched up a bit, this picture would have been an instant classic.
    Cassandra M Super Reviewer
  • Oct 08, 2007
    A hard-hitting and heart-racing edge of your seat thriller. Pulse-pounding and gut-wrenching. Gene Hackman gives one of his greatest performances ever
    Al S Super Reviewer

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