The Whole Truth (2016)

  • Time: 93 min
  • Genre: Drama | Thriller
  • Director: Courtney Hunt
  • Cast: Keanu Reeves, Renée Zellweger, Gugu Mbatha-Raw


A defense attorney works to get his teenage client acquitted of murdering his wealthy father.


  • It’s always a mystery as to how a film made by talented people in front of and behind the camera can be so terrible. Take The Whole Truth, a courtroom drama written by Nicholas Kazan, who scripted Patty Hearst, At Close Range and the Oscar-nominated Reversal of Fortune; directed by Courtney Hunt, who made a strong impression with her Oscar-nominated debut Frozen River; and starring the likes of Keanu Reeves, Renée Zellweger, and Gugu Mbatha-Raw. One would expect something far more interesting than the deathly dull end result.

    The film centers around a seemingly open-and-shut case. Seventeen-year-old Mike Lassiter (Gabriel Basso) is on trial for killing his father Boone (Jim Belushi). Not only were his fingerprints were found on the murder weapon, but Mike confessed to the crime and hasn’t uttered a word since. Defense attorney and family friend Richard Ramsay (Reeves) believes there’s something that Mike is hiding and he’s determined to make the boy talk in order to have any sort of chance of winning their case. In the meantime, Richard is putting on a rope-a-dope defense, pretending to lose so that he can bide some time before hopefully being able to throw the winning punch.

    Throughout the trial, we learn what an unbelievably atrocious and boorish human being Boone was, so much so that it’s a small wonder no one thought of doing away with him earlier or of casting suspicion upon his wife Loretta who was, by all accounts, both verbally and sexually abused by Boone. Loretta is portrayed by Zellweger, who appears shocked that she accepted a role that is far beneath her talents. There was a moment when it seemed the baby doll tremulousness might hide a duplicitous interior, but it came and went so fast that it might have been wishful thinking.

    In fact, for all its turns into the lurid, The Whole Truth remains willfully devoid of any intrigue. Even its final twist is ho-hum and fairly predictable. There’s more energy and momentum in a routine episode of Law and Order than in this entire film, and one isn’t entirely sure who is responsible for where this all went wrong.

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  • “They don’t teach this in law school. Yes, all witnesses lie.”

    “The whole truth and nothing but the truth, so help you God”. How many times have we heard this phrase in some court drama? And that’s also the biggest flaw in this film. Haven’t we seen it all before somewhere? There was only one thing I was asking myself after a while. Who the hell wasn’t lying during this trial? And that’s what Richard Ramsay (Keanu Reeves) tells the newly recruited Janelle (Gugu Mbata-Raw) in the beginning. The fact that witnesses always lie. Except Mike Lassiter (Gabriel Basso). He hasn’t told a lie yet. He kept his mouth shut since the murder. The fact that his hand-print is found on the bloody knife his father Boone (Jim Belushi) was killed with, is enough to consider him as the prime suspect.

    The movie isn’t really so bad. But it’s all so trivial and known that eventually it feels like you’re watching an average television drama. It’s such a film you subsequently watch again one day and after a while you realize you’ve seen it already. The well-known cliche’s that go with such a crime story, are of course present. You can already assume that the main suspect hasn’t done it. Of course you start to focus on another character who could steal the first prize as the prime suspect. And then finally as the plot unfolds, you’ll realize you were completely wrong about everything. Although I found the result quite logical.

    In the past I sometimes secretly enjoyed an episode of “LA Law”. The way a lawsuit developed, with flamboyant lawyers trying to come up with shreds of evidence in a canny way, so they could obtain the acquittal for their client. Not that it was always so terribly exciting, but the overall atmosphere with the intellectual arguments and lyrical lawyers appealed to me. Again, this intellectual posturing is used by Reeves and his colleagues. And actually Reeves is best suited for this type of role. His reserved and stoic calm attitude makes him an ideal candidate. In addition he has this steely expression where you can’t detect any emotion. That comes in handy as a lawyer. I’m sure that if he hadn’t tried to find his luck in Hollywood, he could have been a damn good lawyer. At least I thought this was a more successful performance than him playing the detective in “Exposed”.

    The only ones who really shined in this movie were Jim Belushi and Gugu Mbatha-Raw. Belushi plays the annoying, arrogant Boone who loves to place himself on a pedestal and as the dominant family head tortures and humiliates his wife Loretta (Renée Zellweger) psychologically. He isn’t afraid to use physical violence as well once and a while. He’s a despotic person who doesn’t tolerate any contradiction. Until a sharp knife is planted in his chest. Mbatha-Raw plays Reeves’ hastily recruited sidekick who apparently has a natural lie detector. Although both parts seem fairly limited or void, their influence on the entire history is significant. Unlike Zellweger who really looks old in this movie and also plays a not so impressive role (every other leading actress could have done the job).

    “The whole truth” is a trite legal spectacle that results in an ordinary guessing game. That is guessing who’s the ultimate culprit. Even the generally marvelous interacting cast can’t avoid it to be completely boring with nothing spectacular happening. Most of the time it takes place in a courtroom. That’s quite evidently and not surprising. The attempt to contrive a denouement that looks like a huge surprise, so you’ll be amazed by the final revelation, wasn’t such a success. Are you a big fan of this type of movies? In that case this will be a pleasant treat. However, don’t expect too much. “The whole truth” certainly won’t create a new precedent in the world of court dramas.

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