Just Cause

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Details At A Glance

Category Thriller Theatrical Trailer(s) None
Rating Other Trailer(s) None
Year Released 1995 Commentary Tracks None
Running Time 98:03 Minutes Other Extras None
RSDL/Flipper RSDL (48:45)
Cast & Crew
Start Up Movie
Region 2,4 Director Arne Gilmcher
Warner Home Video
Starring Sean Connery
Laurence Fishburne
Kate Capshaw
Blair Underwood
Ruby Dee
Ed Harris
Case Snapper
RRP $34.95 Music James Newton Howard

Pan & Scan/Full Frame None MPEG None
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 2.35:1 Dolby Digital 5.1
16x9 Enhancement Soundtrack Languages English (Dolby Digital 5.1, 384 Kb/s)
French (Dolby Digital 5.1, 384 Kb/s)
Italian (Dolby Digital 5.1, 384 Kb/s)
Theatrical Aspect Ratio 2.35:1
Macrovision ? Smoking Yes
Subtitles English
English for the Hearing Impaired
Italian for the Hearing Impaired
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

Plot Synopsis

    If I could boil this movie down into a one-sentence summary, I would call it "Murder She Wrote with actual teeth". Or perhaps I would call it Wild Things without the interesting sexual subtexts. Just Cause is a murder-based mystery thriller with a certain kind of appeal, in that some will find it offensive for one reason or another, and others will find it enjoyable because of certain twists and turns. The twists in the story don't come too often, but they come with a certain element of surprise and vertigo-inducing shock that make this film very enjoyable on the first viewing. Sean Connery is in fine form, with a role that is perfectly suited to his wonderfully moderated mannerisms and voice. Laurence Fishburne proves once more than he can only play himself, but it becomes obvious that this role was written with him in mind.

    Paul Armstrong (Sean Connery) is a Harvard law professor, and the film opens with him delivering his side of a debate about the good and bad of capital punishment to a group of students. After the debate is concluded, he is approached by Evangeline (Ruby Dee), who tells him that her son, Bobby Earl (Blair Underwood), is on Death Row in Florida, awaiting execution. According to the story of the officials, he killed a young girl after sexually assaulting her. According to Bobby himself, he only confessed to this appalling crime after being beaten and denied the chance to relieve himself for more than twenty hours. Complicating the matter is the presence of Blair Sullivan (Ed Harris), who supposedly committed the murder for which Bobby is awaiting execution. Armstrong's wife, Laurie (Kate Capshaw) has a personal interest in the case, because she was involved in trying Bobby over a previous incident in which he was charged with kidnapping a small girl. This, of course, is why she manages to talk Armstrong into investigating the case in spite of his initial refusal due to the fact that he hasn't practised law for a quarter of a century. Being that this murder took place in a small Florida town, Armstrong is met with a generally hostile reception from Detective Tanny Brown (Laurence Fishburne) and the general public.

    Now that I have laid out which character is motivated by what, I don't want to go any further, as telling you much more about the film will spoil it (except to say that it is rather odd that Evangeline does not appear again in the film at all once Armstrong has agreed to investigate her son's case). Just Cause is not exactly a film that you will want to return to again and again, but it is definitely worthy of watching once. Sean Connery has certainly appeared in better films, as has Laurence Fishburne, but it is enjoyable enough if you don't know what is going to happen next. The only major surprise in the film is a surprise because it is not something you would think of immediately, much like 16x9 enhancement. Personally, I am very much against capital punishment, for reasons that would mostly sound insane and incoherent in the context of this review. This film is neither pro-capital punishment nor anti-capital punishment, but it does argue the case of the latter quite well. The overall plot of this film leads me to recommend that you rent this title first, as do some aspects of the transfer, which I will get into right about now...

Transfer Quality


    I wouldn't exactly call this Warner Brothers' worst video transfer, but it is certainly a very ordinary piece of work. The film is presented at an aspect ratio of 2.35:1, complete with 16x9 Enhancement. For some reason that doesn't quite seem obvious to me, the transfer is presented in the RSDL format in spite of the fact that the film runs for less than a hundred minutes. The transfer is almost always razor-sharp, especially in the sequences involving bright or harsh lighting, which accounts for eight tenths of the film anyway. Shadow detail is somewhat average compared to what I was expecting from a DVD version of this film, but not bad when stacked against your average Warner Brothers transfer. The best point of this transfer is that no low-level noise made its way into the transfer at any point in the feature. Colour saturation was perfectly correct, with the appropriate slight bias towards the green part of the colour spectrum for the scenes that take place in the Florida everglades.

    MPEG artefacts were absent from this presentation, although it was hard to tell at some points in the film. Film-to-video artefacts were simply horrendous, with aliasing coming in from all of the usual culprits: menswear, car grilles, water, and even some grilles found within the prison. What was more worrying than the amount of spots on the film that were prone to aliasing was the extent to which it was present. There was no scene in the middle of the film that was free from this artefact in at least fifty percent of the shots used to comprise the sequences. Some telecine wobble also became apparent during the scene in which Armstrong visits Sullivan's old home. Film artefacts were also apparent in a greater amount than I would have liked, although they were mostly confined to a small ten-minute space in the middle of the film.

    This disc is presented in the RSDL format, with the layer change coming in at 48:45. This is not the best place for the layer change, as it is right in the middle of a conversation. It is, however, quite quick and only minimally disruptive to the overall flow of the film.


    This is a dialogue-driven film, and the dialogue is therefore of primary importance, which basically leads me to conclude that this transfer is slightly variable. The scenes of high action made the dialogue slightly difficult to make out, but these scenes were not of great importance to the overall plot once they got moving. The transfer is presented in three languages, all of them in Dolby Digital 5.1: English, French, and Italian. I only listened to the English soundtrack because I was not in any mood for the other dialogue tracks. Dialogue was almost always perfectly understandable, but there were some moments when it threatened to become difficult due to ambient sounds and music being given too high a priority on the mixing desk. Audio sync was never a problem at any time in the transfer, but given the rapid combinations of movements and speech in some sequences, a note of caution goes out to the owners of Pioneer players.

    I had forgotten that the music in this film was composed by James Newton Howard, whose other credits include The Devil's Advocate, until just now. This should show you how memorable I found the score. Howard seems unable to make up his mind whether he is scoring for a drama, a thriller, an action film, or for a documentary about the Florida Everglades. There is exciting and tense music ready to accompany the appropriate moments in the film, but it otherwise seems to fall flat. Your opinion of this film's scoring may differ, however.

    The surround channels were effectively, but unremarkably used to support the ambient sounds of the Florida Everglades and other such special effects. The music also crept into the surrounds just a little, but this was mostly just a stereo mix with some surround elements. The subwoofer was mostly unnoticed, although I am sure it made the occasional thump to support the sound of a car making a landing.


    What is more perplexing than the ordinary video transfer is the fact that there are no extras on this disc, which basically means that there is about fifty or so minutes of information on each layer. Even when Warner Brothers undercompress their films, they cannot get it right, it would seem.


    The main menu contains a re-compositing of the cover artwork. It is 16x9 enhanced, but the scene selections are limited to half of the actual scenes on the disc.

R4 vs R1

    The Region 1 version of this disc misses out on;     Apart from the absence of an Italian dub, and the fact that the French dub is also in Dolby Digital 2.0, there is little difference between the two versions of the disc. I would hesitantly recommend the Region 4 version simply because of the superior picture quality afforded by the PAL format, and the use of more surround channels.


    Just Cause is a passable thriller worthy of a rental, presented on an average DVD.

    The video quality is acceptable, but distinctly average.

    The audio quality is good, but nowhere near as good as it could have been.

    Extras and Warner Brothers into DVD does not go.

Ratings (out of 5)

© Dean McIntosh
April 5, 2000.
Review Equipment
DVD Grundig GDV 100 D, using composite output; Toshiba SD-2109, using S-video output
Display Panasonic TC-29R20 (68 cm), 4:3 mode, using composite input; Samsung CS-823AMF (80 cm), 16:9 mode/4:3 mode, using composite and S-video inputs
Audio Decoder Built In (Amplifier)
Amplification Sony STR-DE835
Speakers Panasonic S-J1500D Front Speakers, Sharp CP-303A Back Speakers, Philips FB206WC Centre Speaker, JBL Digital 10 Subwoofer