Murder in the First
is a 1995 prison and legal drama directed by Marc Rocco and staring Christian Slater
and Kevin Bacon
. An Alcatraz prisoner named Henri Young (Bacon) is tried for murder after going berserk and ripping out the throat of a fellow inmate with a spoon. His execution seems inevitable, however his lawyer James Stamphill (Slater) has other ideas.
This film provides examples of:
- The Alcatraz: Alcatraz, oddly enough.
- The Alcoholic: The former Alcatraz guard, which hurts his credibility as a witness.
- Berserk Button: "That's McCain, he put you in the hole."
- Bittersweet Ending: Young gets thrown back in the hole and dies (possibly by suicide), however he dies knowing that his sister's safe and had a relatively happy life, he was vindicated after only being charged with manslaughter and the jerkass warden's getting his comeuppance.
- Conflicting Loyalty: James' brother is unsure whether his loyalty lies with him or the legal firm. He rats out his witness to the prosecution, however the closing narration claims that they made up in the end.
- Disproportionate Retribution: For stealing $5 from a till to feed his sister, Young ends up being charged with a federal crime (since the store in the small town doubled as the Post Office) and ends up sent to Alcatraz to make some politician look good.
- Driven to Suicide: Young asks Stamphill to change his plea to guilty and get him the death penalty several times.
- Enforced Method Acting: Some of the cast was forced to spend time in jail cells. Bacon also lost twenty pounds for his role.
- Historical Hero Upgrade: The real Young was actually a hardened criminal with convictions for bank robbery and murder.
- Improbable Weapon User: Young gouges out McCain's throat with a spoon.
- The Jailer: The Warden who puts Young in the hole is an unusual example, since he serves this purpose within a jail. He ends up being arrested and banned from working in the penal system.
- The Loins Sleep Tonight: A rare dramatic example, when Stamphill tries to use a prostitute to get Young to co-operate.
- Make an Example of Them: Why Young was sent to Alcatraz and why he was thrown in the hole for attempting to escape.
- Maximum Fun Chamber: "The hole".
- Reassignment Backfire: Stamphill's boss put him on the case because he didn't think it was possible to win it anyway. He becomes rather irritated when Stamphill starts taking on the entire prison service.
- Unintentionally Notorious Crime: How Young ended up in prison for what would have been a petty theft. See Disproportionate Retribution above.