Mixed or average reviews - based on 21 Critics

Critic score distribution:
  1. Positive: 8 out of 21
  2. Negative: 4 out of 21
Watch On
  1. If the film doesn't add up to a cogent legal argument, neither does it have trouble delivering 2 hours and 20 minutes' worth of sturdy, highly charged drama.
  2. Reviewed by: Richard Schickel
    Director Joel Schumacher's breathlessly paced and incident-crammed movie will induce a certain sense of deja vu among veteran viewers.
  3. Reviewed by: Todd McCarthy
    As originated by Grisham and adapted by Akiva Goldsman, this is a story of elemental emotional and legal issues splashed across a large canvas, and director Joel Schumacher has done a solid job of keeping the many components in focus and balance.
  4. Reviewed by: Ian Nathan
    Schumacher is never quite smart enough to keep the debate neutral, and the unrestrained hero worship at the close leaves a nasty taste.
  5. 75
    A Time to Kill, based on the first novel by John Grisham, is a skillfully constructed morality play that pushes all the right buttons and arrives at all the right conclusions.
  6. 75
    Then again, it's worth noting that this Hollywood production is actually saying something, rather than just churning out eye-popping special effects while relying on a regurgitated plot.
  7. Joel Schumacher, the director of "Falling Down," "The Client" and "Batman Forever," has a strong feel for this kind of glossy pop entertainment and a way of integrating social issues without sacrificing narrative drive.
  8. To its credit, A Time to Kill allows the debate to snake through the entire movie, engagingly pitting characters and speeches against each other, creating a dramatic forum for ethical debate uncommon in most commercial American films.
  9. Oblivious to niceties like subtlety, plausibility and discretion, it rushes heedlessly toward its destination of audience arousal. Like a flood, the impact is undeniable but it's not something everyone will want to get in the way of. [24Jul1996 Pg. F.01]
  10. 50
    Audiences expecting more Bullock or more weighty import from A Time to Kill will have to adjust expectations and settle for the kick of a good yarn.
  11. Director Joel Schumacher and screenwriter Akiva Goldsman seem incapable of emphasizing what's important and relegating the rest to secondary status.
  12. But the drama's attack on racism would be more persuasive if it rejected vigilante justice and recognized that hatred and violence of all kinds must be condemned if evils like bigotry are ever to be eradicated.
  13. 50
    A Time to Kill embodies all that is wrong with Hollywood attempts to address important issues, raising questions of race and justice but refusing to deal with them on anything but the most simplified, manipulative moral terms.
  14. A slick, synthetic, self-important drama that thinks it is saying more than it is simply because of its subject matter.
  15. Director Joel Schumacher has pulled no mawkish punches, wringing every drop of emotional potential from the script (adapted by screenwriter Akiva Goldsman from John Grisham's popular novel) down to the last manipulative glance and close-up. Call it A Time to Overkill.
  16. Reviewed by: Mike Clark
    A handsome but riotously cluttered melodrama with maybe 145 subplots, it's the latest and least in a soulless string of preordained multiplex hits from the John Grisham warehouse. [24Jul1996 Pg. 10.B]
  17. Reviewed by: Jeff Giles
    Kill is a disappointing movie: slow, overpopulated and muddled in its thinking.
  18. Reviewed by: Staff(not credited)
    A Time to Kill seems to argue that America's racial problems aren't so bad because, even in the heart of bigoted Mississippi, a black man can get away with murder.
  19. There's no question the movie's entertaining. But the blatantly schematic depictions of black and white, liberal and hawk, and other tiresome dichotomies turn A Time to Kill into the moral equivalent of a cockfight.
  20. 20
    In his screen version, Schumacher does a flamboyant job of staging the book without showing the slightest interest in what it's about. Granted, Grisham's original is no masterpiece; it's beach reading, but it deserves credit for addressing its subject with some conviction and integrity.
  21. Reviewed by: Anthony Puccinelli
    Like many artists today, Grisham and Schumacher exploit racial tension without understanding it.
User Score

Universal acclaim- based on 87 Ratings

User score distribution:
  1. Positive: 2 out of 4
  2. Negative: 0 out of 4
  1. JaredB.
    Mar 31, 2008
    I have seen almost every one of the movies that have been adapted from John Grishams novels. This is, by a longshot, the best one. Samuel L. I have seen almost every one of the movies that have been adapted from John Grishams novels. This is, by a longshot, the best one. Samuel L. Jackson plays Carl Lee, a black man whose daughter is brutally raped by two racist rednecks. As the rapists are being brought to their arraignment, Carl Lee steps in and shoots them both, killing them. Carl Lee is then arrested and charged with murder. He picks Jake Brigance, brilliantly played by Matthew McConaughey, to defend him. When Brigance agrees, he finds himself spending more time on the case, and less time on other things, like his family. This puts a major strain on his marriage. I also liked Sandra Bullock as Ellen Roark, a Boston Law student who badly wants to help. I can't reveal the end of the movie, because then, I'd spoil it for anyone who hasn't seen it. If you havent yet seen this movie I strongly recommend it. Be warned, however, that, because of some violence and graphic descriptions of rape, this movie is NOT for very young children. Personally, I absolutely adored this film. Full Review »
  2. Nov 1, 2014
    This review contains spoilers, click full review link to view. Based on the good reviews, the strong cast, and the very complex starting situation I expected this to be a great movie, but it later becomes dumbed down and force fed to us, rather then helping the viewer explore the issues it tries to address. I was so disappointed by the cheesy, binarised american-dream ending, that I feel like I wasted 2.5 hours of my life listening to someone talking about racism in the intellectual level of "Racism is bad, OK?" The acting is amazing, and it is neatly executed piece of cinema, I just wished they used it tell a more meaningful story. Full Review »
  3. Jun 8, 2014
    A Time to Kill proves to be one of the most riveting courtroom dramas of the 90's: the acting is great and the story is shocking, if not a bitA Time to Kill proves to be one of the most riveting courtroom dramas of the 90's: the acting is great and the story is shocking, if not a bit formulaic. However, it's the romanticism and relationship elements in the movie that bring it down a bit. Save it for the Phantom, Schumacher. Full Review »