The Star Chamber [Blu-Ray] Peter Hyams

The Star Chamber [Blu-Ray] Peter Hyams
5
During the opening scenes of 1983 adult drama The Star Chamber, Superior Court Judge Steven Hardin (Michael Douglas) is forced to throw two seemingly clear-cut cases out of court based on technicalities. Exaggerating the drama of this legal exploitation of loopholes is the sheer monstrosity of the criminals presented: two of them molested and killed a little boy they used for child porn, while another is a man that kills old women for their pension money. Understandably, Hardin is outraged by the limitations and flaws of the judicial system, which leads to the central topic of this highly transparent and didactic film: simplified justice. After bitching about the state of the law, Steven is invited into an elitist underground group of influential leaders by fellow Judge Benjamin Caulfield (Hal Holbrook). Their mandate is to enact vengeance on those that manage to elude prosecution; they have a hired killer disconnected from their inner-circle running around town shooting anyone they deem socially problematic. In the sense of id impulse sensationalism, this idea does intrigue in its subversion of social norms, thumbing its nose at an overly convoluted and bureaucratic national ethos. But because this narrative exists only to sustain an argument, concerning itself very little with character development or secondary narrative arcs, the sheer predictability and blandness of its assertions become a redundancy after the initial point is made. Inevitably, morality becomes the bigger question when a snap judgment proves to be incorrect, reiterating a traditionalist view of suppressing anarchic urges as a means of maintaining cultural harmony. All of this is standard, as are the handful of car chases and slow motion explosions present in any film within this genre, leaving very little excitement to be had for a viewing audience that likely understood the undergraduate political science thesis from the opening. Still, The Star Chamber is a functional thriller with some kinetic sensibilities during key moments, but it's understandable why this Michael Douglas drama is little more than a brief footnote in cinematic history. It sustains its runtime but does little else. No supplements are included with the Blu-Ray, which isn't a surprise for an older movie with little cult appeal. (Anchor Bay)