Defense attorney Richard Ramsey (Keanu Reeves) takes on a personal case when he swears to his widowed friend, Loretta Lassiter (Renée Zellweger), that he will keep her son Mike (Gabriel Basso) out of prison. Charged with murdering his father, Mike initially confesses to the crime. But as the trial proceeds, chilling evidence about the kind of man that Boone Lassiter (Jim Belushi) really was comes to light. While Ramsay uses the evidence to get his client acquitted, his new colleague Janelle (Gugu Mbatha-Raw) tries to dig deeper – and begins to realize that the whole truth is something she alone can uncover.
I'm going to put out an idea that may or may not spark a bit of debate, but I feel like it's something that needs to be said, especially about middle-low budget films that don't register much of (if any) theatrical release. If you're making a movie, be it a drama, action film, thriller, horror flick - whatever - and your script and story are pretty routine and not altogether original and borderline mediocre - stay mediocre. While there may not be anything new to see, that sense of familiarity can be enjoyable if the performances are earnest enough. Being mediocre is far better than trying to be clever in the last minutes of the film and turn everything that has been built for 90 minutes into something completely pointless. This is the sad fate of Courtney Hunt's 'The Whole Truth' starring Keanu Reeves and Renée Zellweger, an earnest enough film that felt the need to be clever and edgy without the foundation to support the weight.
When you're a defense attorney, you don't get to always choose who you represent. You just try to offer them the best defense possible. For Ramsey (Keanu Reeves), his latest client Mike (Gabriel Basso) is his toughest one yet - the son of an old associate who has been charged with killing his father (Jim Belushi). With Mike's fingerprints on the knife, the body, and all over the room - it's clear to everyone that Mike killed his father. Not helping matters is the fact Mike refuses to speak or give a reason fro why he killed his father, forcing his mother Loretta (Renée Zellweger) to watch in horror as the prosecution builds a damning murder case in court that would result in the death penalty. Ramsey's only help comes from a young upstart lawyer named Janelle (Gugu Mbatha-Raw) who is particularly adept at sniffing out a liar. As the truth about the brutal tendencies of Mike's father come to light, it may be too late to see justice done and find the real murderer.
From the get-go, you could tell there really wasn't going to be much new or unique about 'The Whole Truth.' Something about the film's Louisiana setting, the opening shots, the narration by Reeves, the initial plot setup, it all spelled routine. While the film may have felt routine, it was at least skillfully produced and competently put together. It may not be reinventing the wheel but at the same time, it didn't need to do that to be entertaining. The idea of a lawyer put into a place of having to defend a client who refuses to speak was enough material to be interesting to make the venture worthwhile. Sure, the characters may be a bit thin, or in the unfortunate case of Zellweger one note, but they're fun in their own way. Jim Belushi may not have had a whole lot to do but he was in his element playing the verbally abusive father. Keanu Reeves does what he always has done best and play the soft-spoken nice guy. Gugu Mbatha-Raw's Janelle may be a bit of an odd character element give her unique ability to sniff out "bullshit" but she's an amiable presence and often echoes the audience's need to rationalize the defense of a murderer.
All of the familiarity and predictability was fine right up until the film felt it needed to get clever at the very end. Working from a script by Rafael Jackson, Director Courtney Hunt essentially throws out the baby with the bath water with a trick ending that simply doesn't work under scrutiny. A twist only works if the surprise holds up to everything that the audience has seen before. Like with a good Agatha Christie story, say 'Witness for the Prosecution' as an example, the twist holds up to multiple viewings because there is enough evidence peppered throughout to provide you with the identity of the killer if you're really paying attention. 'The Whole Truth' doesn't do that. Instead, it relies on being clever to pull the rug out from the audience for a final shocker that becomes laughably bad. I love a good twist ending, but the one featured here is just a misguided attempt to shock and surprise the audience.
As I said at the outset, there's something good to be said about mediocrity. Up until the closing moments, 'The Whole Truth' was certainly an amiable, likable film even if it was fairly rote and routine. At the very least it was somewhat entertaining. Had the film stuck to those guns, I would have said it's watchable and suggested people give it a look. Now, with that ill-conceived trick, I can only tell folks to avoid it as there's really nothing to see to make the whole endeavor with the time. Keanu Reeves is better as a lawyer in 'The Devil's Advocate' so go find that one. At least with that movie you get to enjoy Loud Al Pacino chewing up the scenery.
The Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats
'The Whole Truth' arrives on Blu-ray courtesy of Lionsgate and is pressed onto a Region A BD-25 disc. Housed in an echo-friendly Blu-ray case with identical slip cover artwork, the disc loads to trailers for other upcoming Lionsgate releases before arriving at a static image main menu with traditional navigation options. The disc also comes with a Digital HD voucher slip.
Shot digitally, 'The Whole Truth' arrives on Blu-ray with a strong 2.40:1 1080p transfer. Image clarity and detail are routinely excellent here as you can appreciate fine facial features, costuming, and the film's beautiful Louisiana locations. Colors tend to skew on the warmer side of things, summery yellows and greens tend to populate much of the image without harming primaries too terribly. Occasionally skin tones can appear a tad yellow depending on the scene, but overall they're perfectly normal and healthy looking. Black levels are solid throughout providing some deep inky blacks with strong shadow separation giving the image pleasing range of depth and dimension. There are a couple of moments in night scenes taking place at the motel where Ramsey has set up shop that tends to be less detailed and a bit flatter, but these aren't too distracting but still worth noting. All around this is a strong transfer for a release of this sort.
With a DTS-HD MA 5.1 audio mix, 'The Whole Truth' earns some strong marks. As a very conversational film, dialogue is clean and clear throughout and generally keep to the front/center channels. Sound effects and the impressive score by Evgueni and Sacha Galperine help round out the mix ensuring the side and surround channels maintain their presence. Imaging is, for the most part, fairly restrained as this is such a conversational film that any sense of directionality or immersion comes from the creak of a chair in the courtroom gallery or a cough or the "rabble rabble rabble Ohhhhhhh" moments when there's a big reveal. Overall, for a courtroom drama of this sort, this is a very good mix but hardly remarkable.
No bonus feature content.
A simple and routine courtroom drama can be a decent bit of entertainment. Just because it doesn't do anything new doesn't mean some good performances aren't worth appreciating. Unfortunately even good performances aren't enough to surmount the misguided attempt at being clever with the conclusion of 'The Whole Truth.' What was mediocre while entertaining becomes trite and easily dismissible. Lionsgate brings 'The Whole Truth' to Blu-ray with a solid A/V presentation but apparently couldn't be bothered with providing any bonus features of any kind. While not an altogether terrible film, it doesn't have much redeeming value making it one to skip. There are better ways out there to burn 93 minutes of your time.