ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

Film Review: A Time to Kill

Updated on March 20, 2018
Film Frenzy profile image

Jason Wheeler is the Senior Writer and Editor at Film Frenzy. He reviews films from across the cinematic landscape.


In 1996, Joel Schumacher released A Time to Kill, based off of the 1989 novel of the same name by John Grisham. Starring Matthew McConaughey, Sandra Bullock, Samuel L. Jackson, Kevin Spacey, Oliver Platt, Ashley Judd, Kiefer Sutherland, Donald Sutherland, and Patrick McGoohan, the film grossed $152.27 million at the box office.

Film Trailer


When two white supremacists come across and rape a ten year old black girl named Tonya in Canton, Mississippi, her father Carl Lee kills them. In the aftermath, lawyer Jake Brigance works to defend Lee in court.


A decent film, A Time To Kill seems to be a sort of spiritual successor of To Kill a Mockingbird. The only difference between the two being Carl Lee actually murdering the two men. Further, though the trial may be fair, it kicks off a divisive rift in the town between those who believe his crime to be justified and the town’s resident Klan members and Neo-Nazis. It becomes so heated the National Guard is called in after a riot commences. There’s is a sort of ironic death which occurs because of the riot too, with some hoodlums killing the leader of the Klan with a Molotov cocktail.

The racial divide present in the film is seen as a war going on in the nation, with Brigance seeing himself as Carl Lee's enemy but stating he's trying not to be the enemy. Brigance also gives a speech at the end, asking those in attendance at the trial to imagine Tonya’s rape as he retells it. However, he subverts their expectations as he reminds them she is a black girl.

Additionally, fair trial or not, the film explores what kind of man Carl Lee is and how much he cares for his daughter. He cares so much about her he murdered the men because of what they did and hopes they burn in hell. The deputy he shot says he would do the same thing. Moreover, Carl lee says the lack of remorse he has for killing them deeply disturbs him. Still, he claims the fact of them not able to terrorize anyone else anymore is the only thing helping him to sleep at night. It shows he wants to be remorseful because he committed a heinous act, yet can’t be because of who they were and what they did.

It subverts audience expectations in other ways as well. One of them actually begins the film as Tonya is accosted, diverging from how children are usually untouchable in most films. The other attorney, while amoral, is actually kind of affable. After failing to get a conviction, he shows no ill will to Brigance, even shaking his hand. The prosecutor is also only trying to do his job and do it well, believing he should be punished because the law says so. In the choice to do what’s in accordance with the law or to ignore the law, believing Carl Lee might be justified in some way, he chooses the law. Brigance and the law student who helps him with case don’t get together in any way either, in spite of both of them wanting to. Brigance is so committed to his marriage he doesn’t want to jeopardize it. In fact, after an attempt on his life, she asks if he wants her to stay. He says he does, therefore she better leave.

Despite the above making it seem like the film is more than good, what makes it decent is the writing is average. The climax does include a great speech by Brigance, making it seem as if more time was spent crafting this moment than other areas.

3 stars for A Time to Kill

the postings on this site are my own and don't necessarily represent WNI's positions, strategies or opinion

Awards & Recognitions

bold indicates reception of award/recognition

ASCAP Film and Television Music Awards

  • Top Box Office Film

Blockbuster Entertainment Awards

  • Favorite Actress - Suspense (Sandra Bullock)
  • Favorite Supporting Actor - Suspense (Samuel L. Jackson)

Chicago Film Critics Association Awards

  • Most Promising Actor (Matthew McConaughey)

Golden Globe Awards

  • Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role in a Motion Picture (Samuel L. Jackson)

Grammy Awards

  • Best Instrumental Composition Written for a Motion Picture or for Television ("Defile and Lament")

Image Awards

  • Outstanding Motion Picture
  • Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Motion Picture (Samuel L. Jackson)
  • Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Motion Picture (Charles S. Dutton)
  • Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Motion Picture (Tonea Stewart)
  • Outstanding Youth Actor/Actress (Rae Ven Kelly)

Jupiter Award

  • Best International Actress (Sandra Bullock)

MTV Movie Awards

  • Best Breakthrough Performance (Matthew McCanaughey)
  • Best Female Performance (Sandra Bullock)
  • Best Villain (Kiefer Sutherland)

Online Film & Television Association Awards

  • Best Supporting Actor (Samuel L. Jackson)

Razzie Awards

  • Worst Written Film Grossing Over $100 Million

The Stinkers Bad Movie Awards

  • Worst Supporting Actress (Brenda Fricker)

YoungStar Awards

  • Best Performance by a Young Actress in a Drama Film (Rae Ven Kelly)


This website uses cookies

As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at:

Show Details
HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the or domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)
ClickscoThis is a data management platform studying reader behavior (Privacy Policy)