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Artisan Home Entertainment presents
Degree of Guilt (1995)

"There's been an accident. A gun has gone off."
- Mary Carelli (Sharon Lawrence)

Review By: Rich Rosell   
Published: October 08, 2003

Stars: Daphne Zuniga, David James Elliott, Sharon Lawrence
Other Stars: Don Allison, Tabitha Lupien, Adam LaVorgna, Vincent Ventresca
Director: Mike Robe

MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (mild violence)
Run Time: 03h:04m:07s
Release Date: July 22, 2003
UPC: 707729141808
Genre: drama

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer
D- D-B-B- D-

DVD Review

There are few things as painful to me as watching a bad television mini-series, and with the Hallmark production of Degree of Guilt that pain is nearly immeasurable. This lifeless adaptation, based in part on a pair of Richard North Patterson novels, not only trots a bunch of sub-standard soap-opera-worthy performances by familiar faces, but it has the added indignity of stretching out the sudsy courtroom antics over a numbing three hours and five minutes.

NYPD Blue's Sharon Lawrence plays Mary Carelli, a woman who ends up on trial for the murder of a world-famous author, and of course the only person who can defend her is her former flame, the hunky Christopher Paget (JAG's David James Elliott), who just also happens to be caring for their teenage son, Carlo (Adam LaVorgna). With that standard issue plot contrivance aside, the next cliché concerns Paget's pretty law partner, Terri (Daphne Zuniga), who is on the verge of divorce to calculating wiseass Richie (Vincent Ventresca), which naturally forces her into the willing arms of her chiseled partner Christopher. The story then takes another by-the-numbers leap into the predictability pile when Terri's husband Richie ends up murdered, with all suspicions pointing toward hunky legal eagle Christopher Paget. What's a girl to do?

Richie is painted as such an annoying loaf that his death didn't seem shocking; in fact it was a actually pretty welcome respite because it temporarily broke up the monotony of the rest of the film. I suppose the is-he-or-isn't-he-guilty cloud that hangs over Christopher was intended to be the story's big hook, especially considering he has successfully bedded Terri and seems to be the ideal man, but I never once was able to generate the slightest concern either way. I've always had a thing for Daphne Zuniga, and for a moment I thought she was going to be the most grounded one of the bunch until she traipsed off into a typically vacuous Hallmark happy-land void by quickly falling into Christopher's bed.

There are plenty of long stretches of dry courtroom theatrics as the supposedly engaging Carelli trial unfolds, as well as the bitter divorce proceedings of Terri and Richie (that is, before he ends up dead). The biggest problem with a small screen mini like this is that most of the characters are about as flat and dimensionless as you could possibly imagine, and all are poised to deliver scene after scene of melodramatic dialogue. It's not necessarily the actors fault, but it is more likely the fault of the tepid screenplay from Cynthia Whitcomb, who also penned the television screenplays for the similarly titled Presumed Guilty and Body of Evidence. Maybe she just had a degree of confusion regarding her own body of work and is guilty of presumption of the viewer's attention span. This is a poorly padded soap opera/drama that perhaps was agreeable to the limited expectations of the broadcast movie-of-the-week crowd when stretched out over a couple of nights. But when passed off as a long feature film on DVD, it is just plain bad.

Rating for Style: D-
Rating for Substance: D-


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio1.33:1 - Full Frame
Original Aspect Ratioyes

Image Transfer Review: The 1.33:1 full-frame transfer is serviceable, with a decent palette of nicely-rendered colors and fair-to-middlin' black levels that offer a print that while far from perfect, serves the material adequately. Nothing special, and remarkably ordinary without any glaring source print flaws or defects.

Image Transfer Grade: B-


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0Englishno

Audio Transfer Review: A passable 2.0 stereo surround in English is the solitary option, and it has the same limited dynamic range of a typical television movie. No complaints in the dialogue department, as it is clearly mixed and sounds positively average.

Audio Transfer Grade: B-


Disc Extras

Static menu
Scene Access with 25 cues and remote access
Packaging: Amaray
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: single

Extras Review: Thank you, Artisan, for the complete lack of extras. I don't think I could have mustered the intestinal fortitude to sit through an extra minute of this disc.

The disc is cut into a meager 25 chapters, and does not include any subtitles.

Extras Grade: D-


Final Comments

Looking for a boring made-for-television movie? Here it is!

It's three hours long, too.


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