The Wikipedia Page For 'A Time To Kill' Hides A Bonkers Controversy
You remember A Time To Kill as To Kill A Mockingbird, but with a much happier ending. France remembers it as their favorite movie for them to shit on their Yankee cousins.
A Time To Kill, one of those John Grisham novels that uses the word voir-dire too often, tells the tale of an African-American dad in the rural South that gets revenge on his daughter's white rapist by murdering him in the middle of a courtroom. Facing the death penalty, he gets white-saviored by a scrappy young attorney who somehow convinces a very racist jury that the killing was justified if you only imagined the girl as white.
In 1996, the book was adapted by Warner Bros. starring Samuel L. Jackson, Matthew McConaughey, Sandra Bullock, Donald and Kiefer Sutherland (there was a 2-for-1 sale), and some guy named Kevin. And for this incredibly delicate subject matter, the studio hired the team behind the new Batman movies, Joel Schumacher and Akiva Goldsman, to accurately and sensitively portray the characters' nipples.
The movie did great, making thrice its budget and holding a 67% on Rotten Tomatoes, with Roger Ebert even calling it "the best of the film versions of Grisham novels" -- which becomes less of a compliment when you realize there weren't 600 of them yet. But so far, so boilerplate "this is fine" 90s popcorn movie. Where this Grisham adaptation radically differs was received in Europe, specifically France, to such extent that its Wikipedia page includes a "Reaction in France" subsection. And the reviews ... aren't good.
The last thing you'd ever expect from a John Grisham story is it being controversial. But A Time To Kill nails the dictionary definition of that -- how else would explain a movie that was condemned by the French branch of Amnesty International, yet simultaneously nominated for an NAACP award? According to the rather extensive Wikipedia addendum, French critics were appalled at the idea that A Time To Kill was a tale of frontier justice that shows that black lives matter. Instead, as the French publication Liberte claims, the movie only "militates in favour of the black cause only to legitimize [...] the mentally ill gesture of the avenging father."
So a movie that uses the black experience to excuse dad-torture-porn about gunning down their daughter's rapists and getting away with it? What is this, based on a John Grisham novel? Other critiques francaises weren't as analytical with their disgust, calling the movie "nauseating," "stinking," "fascist," and a whole other variety of very French insults. The movie was such a moral failure in the eyes of the French, they even retitled it (perhaps as late revenge for Freedom Fries) to Le Droit de Tuer? or "The Right To Kill?" Which is weird since the film seems fairly confident in its answer to that question:
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Top Image: Warner Bros. Pictures/Wikipedia