"To paraphrase the cliche, no one should have to witness the making of sausages or laws.
In a two-part series that airs tonight and next Tuesday...Frontline's 'Real Justice' forces us to watch how those laws are enforced in the daily grind of Boston's criminal court system. To the show's credit, it's hard to take your eyes off the unsightly mess.
With its cameras granted intimate access to the lawyers, witnesses, defendants, and courtrooms, 'Real Justice' wisely resists the impulse to serve up a preachy indictment of overzealous prosecutors or jaded defense attorneys. Instead, it unflinchingly reveals a criminal justice system buckling under its own weight, bursting at the seams."
"While ambitious young people may be veering toward business and media in real life, on prime-time television dramas medicine and law remain the professions withe most consistent ratings track record. ...
The producers of 'Real Justice' have shrewdly capitalized on this obsession while aiming to convey a more realistic portrait of a legal system that seems as stressed and haphazard as Florida's balloting. Defense lawyers meet clients on the way to a court appearance, with barely a chance to find out their names, much less whether they're telling the truth or not.
Prosecutors spend little time making impassioned and erudite speeches the way their fictional counterparts often do. They're to busy negotiating bargains that often feel like deals with the devil. Jurors acquit obviously guilty defendants for good reasons (because the evidence was lacking) and bad (because they share the prejudices of a man accused of a homophobic attack). ...
Ben Loeterman and Ben Gale, the producers of 'Real Justice,' have brought a discerning perspective to the daily grind of cases, where the petty and the profound can become indistinguishable in the dull glare of institutional fluorescent lights. They particularize the numbing crush by focusing on a handful of lawyers, poorly paid system operatives who handle the bulk of criminal cases, in which victims and defendants tend to be poor and notably unglamorous."
"... an absolutely riveting Frontline documentary about the American criminal justice system...
The British production team of "Real Justice" - producer-director Ben Gale and co-director Leeanne Vinson, who also handled all the videotaping - convinced participants to grant virtually total access to all elements of the process. Thanks to wireless microphones worn by lawyers, cops and judges, we can hear them discussing the details of various cases, consulting with victims and witnesses, counseling and educating clients and, not least, cutting deals.
Those deals - plea bargains - grease the wheels of the justice system's assembly line. Put simply, plea bargaining involves prosecutors offering reduced sentences in exchange for guilty pleas. But 'Real Justice,' to its credit, also captures some of the complexity of a process that - sometimes, at least - produces a better outcome for all concerned than a trial might.
The U.S. version of 'Real Justice,' produced by Gale and veteran award-winner Ben Loeterman, vibrates with a ceaseless energy and frantic pace. There's an endless supply of cases but only so many bodies available to handle them and only so many hours in a day. The work never ends. ...
'Real Justice' doesn't invalidate fictional TV dramas like 'The Practice' (itself set in Boston) and 'Law & Order' so much as it reveals their real-life roots. And in the hands of filmmakers Gale, Vinson, and Loeterman, truth is at least as fascinating as fiction."
"Many of the deceits and duplicities of the justice system are on display in the remarkable 'Real Justice'... another chapter in the distinctive Frontline series.
This kind of television - the nonfiction film - is the most satisfying genre. Without obtrusive narration, allowing the principles to tell their stories in their own words, 'Real Justice' flows in a compelling stream of conscientiousness. The film is well-made, well-intentioned, well-balanced. Yet 'Real Justice' is never tedious. The subject matter is high-minded and emotional. The pictures have power.
Ralph Martin, the district attorney of Suffolk County, gave Ben Gale, the producer of 'Real Justice,' extraordinary access to the courtrooms, back hallways and holding cells. Martin, however, never appears in the film.
The absence of the big cheese says everything about 'Real Justice.' This is not about grandstanding or self-serving. Martin allowed his minions to take full credit here, to rise and fall on their merits - or deficiencies. For the most part, the prosecutors of Suffolk County will come across to the rest of the country as caring, blunt-spoken, dignified and professional - albeit harried.
...a riveting, important film that makes all those other courtroom dramas on TV pale in comparison."
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