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Mistrial Reviews

Made for HBO, MISTRIAL is a preposterous right-wing melodrama about a vigilante cop who takes the law into his own hands when he sees a trial about to end in a miscarriage of justice. The murder of rookie officer Ida Cruz (Christina Cox) and her partner spurs a citywide outcry, but provokes an irrational response in overworked Detective Steve Donohoe (Bill Pullman). Before the investigation properly commences, Donohoe acts on circumstantial evidence and a tip that Ida was being stalked by her ex-husband Eddie Rios (Jon Seda). A confrontation with Rios leads to the accidental shooting deaths of Rios's second wife and his brother. The Latino community cry for Donohoe's badge, just as support for his behavior erodes within the DA's office. With his credibility shattered and the case against Rios gutted by legal technicalities and loopholes, Donohoe realizes that not only will Rios get off, but that he will become a departmental scapegoat likely to lose his pension. Outraged by the unethical conduct of Rios's attorney, Nick Mirsky (Josef Sommer), Donohoe seizes control of the courtroom and retries the defendant with all the evidence that the judge had declared unusable. While a hostage negotiator and a SWAT team stand by, Donohoe proves Rios's guilt, denounces the cowering jury, and castigates the Constitution-upholding judge. Because his fellow officers refuse to storm the courtroom, Donohoe has time to persuade the jury of Rios's guilt. Calmed down by his superior, Capt. Unger (Robert Loggia), Donohoe refrains from executing Rios and resigns himself to being thrown to the media and legal system wolves. Rios, found innocent by law, relives the night on which he gunned down ex-wife Ida and her partner. MISTRIAL undermines its own melodramatic initiative by lingering on the bull-headed, self-delusional antics of its hero/antihero. Are we supposed to endorse all of Donohoe's malformed decisions simply because he's been victimized by the legal system? The inappropriate casting of Bill Pullman makes it even harder to sympathize with Donohoe. Able to play morally upright pillars of society like the President in INDEPENDENCE DAY (1996), Pullman cannot pull off this kind of showy histrionics. But even with better casting, this hysteria about circumvented justice would ring false. Instead of subtly discrediting the doublespeak of American jurisprudence, the film shrieks out its points as if to shout down the possibility of any other viewpoint. MISTRIAL comports itself like a gun-proselytizer shouting "Ban the Brady Bill!" at an NRA rally. (Graphic violence, extreme profanity, adult situations, substance abuse.)