Deliberate Intent (2000) Review
(More customer reviews)"Deliberate Intent" is a fascinating film based on the book by First Amendment scholar and law professor Ron Smolla, detailing the 1997 Paladin Enterprises, Inc. vs. Rice case. It concerns "Hit Man: A Technical Manual for Independent Contractors," a book that gave step by step instructions on how to murder, and the killing of 3 people in 1993 by someone who followed those instructions. It is one of the most intellectually challenging films I have seen in a long time, and is brilliantly constructed and acted to present both sides of the argument.
There was an unusual agreement between the author and the publisher. The author, who usually assumes liability for their work, was not only free of liability but also had their identity protected. This stemmed from the publisher wanting "Hit Man," which was originally conceived as a novel, to be written as a "users manual". The two sides of this case, whether this went beyond the rights of free speech, or was protected by the First Amendment, and how Smolla's mind was changed from one view to another, is the central focus of the film. It also details the murder of the 3 people, and how "Hit Man" played a part in it. Some people think the case "murdered the First Amendment" along with the victims, others think it went way beyond its boundaries.
The performances are low-key and superb. Timothy Hutton gives another solid performance as Smolla. Hutton is a vastly underrated actor that excels in portraying characters that are more mental than flamboyant, and the part of Smolla fits him like a velvet glove. Ron Rifkin is marvelous as Howard Siegel, the attorney who pesters Smolla into taking the case. Clark Johnson, who was Dt. Meldrick Lewis, my favorite actor/character on "Homicide: Life on the Street," is perfect as the hit man, James Perry, as is James McDaniel, as Lawrence Horn, the man who hires Perry to kill his family. On the defense side of the case, there is Bill McDonald as Peder Lund, publisher of Paladin Enterprises, and Cliff De Young as his defense attorney.
There are no weak links in this way above average TV film, making all of its 85 minutes riveting. This is a film I wished had been longer, as I was enjoying the thought-provoking premise of it so much. Written and directed by Andy Wolk, it also has a marvelous, atmospheric score by Harald Kloser. After you watch this film, you will never see a single shoe in the road (one of the "Hit Man" instructions) without remembering "Deliberate Intent."
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