Chris O'Donnell, two-time Academy Award-winner Gene Hackman and Oscar-winner Faye Dunaway star in this gripping suspense thriller based on John Grisham's explosive best-selling novel. O'Donnell stars as idealistic young attorney Adam Hall who takes on the death row clemency case of his onetime Klansman grandfather, Sam Cayhall (Hackman). With just 28 days before the execution, Adam sets out to retrace the events leading to the crime for which Sam was convicted. As the impending death sentence looms closer, Adam works quickly to uncover the family's history for any hidden clues. In a white-knuckle series of twists and turns, Adam discovers deceptions and dark secrets that ultimately lead him to the startling truth.
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A top cast consisting of veteran aces Gene Hackman and Faye Dunaway can't rescue this way-too-long, dreadfully earnest version of John Grisham's equally gimpy novel. There are several problems in this story of an intertwined Southern family who must disentangle themselves from the past and the dark shadow of a 1967 bombing. That terrorist attack led to the deaths of two Jewish children and was pinned on the black-sheep patriarch of the family, a racist, card-carrying Klansman named Sam Cayhall (Hackman), who is now serving time on death row for the hate crime. Years later, the savior grandson cometh. Young-buck lawyer Adam Hall--played with righteous determination and limited range by Chris O'Donnell--pulls out all the stops to save his client from the Mississippi gas chamber. As is usual in Grisham country, the poor lawyer becomes embroiled in a plan more diabolical, corrupt, and layered than he could guess and the truth spirals out of control, endangering lives, and opening old wounds. The Chamber attempts to twist and turn through its plodding story, but there is no gray area in which to force the viewer to weigh his or her conscience against the skewed facts. Everything that occurs in The Chamber is black or white, good or bad, and there is no crisis of conflict to make us question the morality and stance of the two sides in play. The bad guys are awful, the politicians are bought off, the cops are either corrupt or apathetic, and only one puny guy is left to bring down a house of cards that's been standing solidly for decades. O'Donnell is quickly put to shame by Hackman, who even manages to suffer through a sadistically long, melodramatic stroll down death row with his dignity intact. --Paula Nechak
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