[REVIEW] THE STAR CHAMBER (1983) – ManlyMovie



Runtime: 109 Mins
Rated: R
What To Expect: A 1970’s style slow burning gritty thriller

Peter Hyams sure has earned his stripes as far as contributing to manly movies is concerned.  Capricorn One, Narrow Margin (seriously, check that one out with Gene Hackman), Enemies Closer, TimeCop, Sudden Death and more.  Recently, I decided to check this movie out because I had not seen it before and since I hadn’t, I thought there might be a few ManlyMovie readers who also missed it for whatever reason.  It’s one of Hyams’ earlier efforts.  And it’s a vigilante movie.  And boy do we like a good vigilante movie.  Especially a dark, gritty 1983 one directed by Hyams.

In The Star Chamber, let us describe the situation with a quote from Tony Pope (you know who he is). “Yes, folks, the word is out; L.A is up for grabs. The spoils of our once fine city is going to the ruthless scum who can spread the most carnage and blood in our streets.”  Michael Douglas plays Superior Court Judge Steven R. Hardin, and he sees a lot of ‘assorted trash’ come before him.  And sometimes he has to let them go due to politically correct bureaucratic technicalities.  It’s getting to him — he’s hitting the liquor cabinet at night.  But one case drives him over the edge, when a gang of subhumans are involved in a child porn ring and are arrested and brought to trial, a key fuck up with regards to evidence forces Douglas to let them off.

Step up Judge Benjamin Caulfield, played by Hal Holbrook, a seasoned man of the court who takes no shit.  He recognizes Douglas’ rage and invites him to join a secret vigilante court, where pissed off people in the profession examine cases such as the scum released for child abduction, then pass a real verdict.  Think of it as a court that Charles Bronson would attend for jury duty.  What do they do?  Hire a fucking hitman, to terminate whoever deserves it with extreme prejudice.  However, being that this also has to be a good story, things often do go according to plan.  And Douglas starts wondering what the hell it is he got himself into.

This might sound like something from a Charles Bronson feature of the time, but it’s less gung ho and more… Walter Hill-ish.  It’s a thriller, with a few twists.  But not the shitty gimmick type of twist, natural ones that belong in the old 70’s style thriller.  It’s a seedy movie, perhaps sometimes a little slow.  It has a considerable weakness too in that it’s kind of anti-climatic.  But it’s definitely worthy of being hunted down and added to a manly movie collection.  Good performances and a very good story.