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A semiabsorbing courtroom thriller, based on William Diehl's novel, about a poor Chicago altar boy (Edward Norton) accused of murdering an archbishop and defended by a hotshot defense attorney (Richard Gere). Scripted by Steve Shagan (Hustle) and Ann Biderman (Copycat) and directed by first-timer Gregory Hoblit, the movie coasts along reasonably well as a mystery until it gets snarled in some double-talk about psychopathology toward the end. The leading characters—including the prosecutor (Laura Linney), the judge (Alfre Woodard), and a corrupt government official (John Mahoney)—never quite convince, but this matters as little as characterizations do in most mysteries, and the plot keeps one interested in any case. With Frances McDormand.

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