Music Box

The main excuse for this Costa-Gavras thriller (1989) about an attorney defending her Hungarian father against charges of brutal wartime crimes isn’t so much the investigation of Nazi atrocities that constitutes its plot as the all-stops-out star performance of Jessica Lange as the attorney. As a courtroom attention grabber the movie is just serviceable, but the script by Joe Eszterhas reeks with false piety (embodied largely in Frederic Forrest’s prosecuting attorney) and the kind of wobbly soapbox oratory that used to furnish Abby Mann scripts for Stanley Kramer vehicles on related subjects, and the final denouement is less than wholly persuasive. Armin Mueller-Stahl is commanding as the accused anticommunist patriarch and family man, and Donald Moffat is appropriately sinister as the heroine’s ex-father-in-law, but it’s Lange who commands most of the attention and interest, giving the material slightly more than it’s worth. With Lukas Haas and Cheryl Lynn Bruce. 123 min. (JR)

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