Leonard Cohen: Bird on a Wire
Palmer's film is that rare concert doc that isn't for established fans only.
"The Star Chamber" works brilliantly until it locks into a plot. Then it stops dancing and starts marching. The movie opens with a series of intriguing scenes showing a series of shocking miscarriages of justice. Fiends and perverts are caught red-handed, confess to their crimes and then are put back on the streets again because of minor legal technicalities.
Their crimes, captures, trials and victories are filmed with so much style and energy we think this is going to be a good movie. But it's not. It loses faith in its own subject matter, turns to a series of bankrupt standard plot ideas, and ends up as just one more movie where the hero and the killers are chasing each other through another one of those colorful abandoned warehouses that 87 percent of all thrillers visit at one time or another.
"The Star Chamber" begins as the stories of several specific characters -- criminals, cops, judges -- and if it had continued to be about them, it might have been fascinating. Instead, it cuts in another one of those routine, right-wing fantasies where powerful forces are meeting behind closed doors to decide our fates.
The movie stars Michael Douglas as an idealistic young judge who grows disturbed as he is forced, by loopholes in the law, to let several savage criminals walk out of his courtroom. He is recruited by a fellow judge who introduces him to a "star chamber" of powerful citizens who "retry" such cases. When they decide a guilty man has gone free, they hire their own hit man to assassinate the criminal. Neat, clean, quick vigilante justice.