The Star Chamber Peter Hyams

Operatic sleaze, '80s style; you'll hate the filmmakers for their shameless manipulations and then you'll hate yourself for enjoying them so much. Michael Douglas plays a young judge who's tired of letting killers and sickos off on technicalities, and wants to take out the trash. Fortunately he knows old hand Hal Holbrook, who is part of a society of vigilante judges that orders the deaths of the deserving unpunished. Douglas becomes a member and everything goes great, right up until when he discovers the innocence of the current targets. The first two thirds of the movie are sort of a right-wing corollary of And Justice for All, with the lawyers vs. judges antagonism reversed and the victims reshuffled for conservative approval, such as grieving father James B. Sikking, who shows up on cue to give the "look at my son's picture" speech that TV movies have to have. It of course has to feign disillusionment, but just barely, and it makes the innocents not so innocent and thus eminently disposable. But who cares? As long as Peter Hyams can crank up the smoky shafts of light effects and see how many lens flares he can fit into one shot, I'm easy to please. Special care has been taken to make the criminals bug-eyed, sweaty reptiles who breathe like asthmatics and look like they've been rolling in dirty lard, and if that's not exactly irreproachable it's so hysterical and facile that only the truly impressionable will be swayed by its "arguments." With Yaphet Kotto making the most of a circumscribed cop role and Sharon Gless as the thankless, attractive wife with six lines. Two trailers for the film are the only extras. (Fox)