Norman Jewison's blackly satirical look at the American justice system has gained in stature as one of the more incisive social commentaries of its time. Al Pacino plays Arthur Kirkland, an incorruptible attorney who attempts to initiate reforms in the Maryland justice system.
Kirkland is haunted by the fates of two past clients, one of whom committed suicide in jail; the other is still alive but is locked up on a trumped-up traffic violation. The ability of power and money to distort the pursuit of justice becomes all too clear as Kirkland finds out how deeply the rot has spread.
He finally retaliates by representing a repulsive judge (John Forsythe) accused of rape. Pacino's and Forsythe's performances are intense and powerful. Many critics found the film biting and almost painful in its razor-sharp indictment of the justice system, while others declared the script too outrageous.