Near the beginning of Find Me Guilty, a title card informs us that “most” of the dialogue from the movie’s courtroom scenes was taken from actual transcripts of the Lucchese crime-family trial. It’s a promise of improbable fireworks to come, and on this score, at least, Find Me Guilty doesn’t disappoint. An unconvincingly aged (and wigged) Diesel stars as Jackie DiNorscio, who, already serving a 30-year sentence on drug charges, decided to defend himself against a RICO indictment. What followed was the longest criminal trial in U.S. history, featuring 20 defendants and spanning 22 months. Overreliant on vocal tics that don’t suggest North Jersey so much as chemically induced brain damage, Diesel offers an ingratiating performance, hitting his stride in the courtroom scenes, where Jackie turns the trial into a virtual stand-up act, cracking off-color jokes and revisiting personal beefs with witnesses.
Director Sidney Lumet is no stranger to the genre, which may explain the whiff of stodginess throughout, but the greater problem is the lack of any coherent moral perspective. Compared with the audience-implicating identification games of The Sopranos, Find Me Guilty amounts to little more than a tepid celebration of mob values. Consequently, there’s little at stake dramatically, and by the end the only suspense involves how far Jackie will get into his closing statement before the inevitable, dreaded moment when he invokes the film’s title. (Opens Fri; see Index for venues.)—Joshua Land