“The Whole Truth” is a second rate legal thriller directed by Courtney Hunt and featuring Keanu Reeves as a criminal defense attorney defending a teenage boy for stabbing his father in the chest thereby killing him.
It’s a pretty routine film but what makes this one unique is that the boy named Mike (Gabriel Basso) won’t speak or discuss anything with his attorney, Richard Ramsey (Reeves). Therefore, Ramsey has to fly blind on his defense strategy. He can’t even construct a solid opening statement in court because Mike just won’t offer anything up. Yet, it’s revealed that Mike took to learning the facets of the law and forensics early on beginning at age 10, with a dream to attend law school.
The prosecution brings forth one witness after another and Ramsey continues to remind Mike that not communicating is not helping him get reach a not guilty verdict.
The film is only 90 minutes long. So it gets started right away on the first day of trial in a Louisiana courtroom. Glimpses of flashbacks intercut with the courtroom activity that shows the incredibly wealthy father, Boone played by Jim Belushi, as an abusive guy to both his wife and Mike. The guy is a frightening jerk, really. So, motive sounds understandable on the surface.
Ramsey recruits a “bull shit detector” named Janelle. (Gugu Mbatha-Raw) to sit at the table with him and determine when a witness is likely not telling the truth. Janelle’s background tells us that she did not have a good history with her prior law firm and she checked out for some mental therapy. Other than that, she’s simply a tool for Ramsey to share some dialogue.
There’s also Mike’s mother, Boone’s wife, Loretta, played by Renee Zellweger. Could she know something that could help the case? Zellweger has done better work than this material.
“The Whole Truth” was made for its twist ending. A producer latched on that end scene and declared “well this is something we’ve never seen before.” The film hinges on the twist, and while it surprised me, it didn’t wow me enough to recommend the film.
Films with twist endings can’t simply bank on its one moment. That’s what I always try to explain to my colleague Miguel when we debate “The Sixth Sense.” The journey has to be absorbing and interesting. I never found “The Sixth Sense” to be interesting. I never found “The Whole Truth” to be interesting either.
Look, if the accused isn’t gonna talk to the lawyer, and he isn’t even gonna talk in the flashbacks that lead up to the murder, then there’s not much material to go after here. As well, the twist reveals what happened, and it is confirmed that Mike knew what occurred all along. So here’s what I don’t understand, why didn’t Mike just speak up way back then???????
Miguel always has a response for that too. “Well, then there wouldn’t be a movie!”
Yeah. Guess so.