Careerism And Comedy In Courtroom

Posted: February 06, 1987

From the Hip is many things but consistent is not one of them. Truly - the whole truth and nothing but - this is the Jekyll-and-Hyde of courtroom comedy. Kind of a Legal Eagles meets Psycho.

Judd Nelson plays Robin "Stormy" Weathers, one year out of law school and already itchy to jettison his morals if it will help him climb to the top of the Boston law firm founded by Oliver Wendell Holmes. As idealistically as Robin expresses his righteous outrage about funding cuts in preschool programs, he cynically fixes it so that he will have to defend an assault case on the docket of a senior partner in the firm.

It's unclear whether this slapstick comedy-drama, directed by Bob ''Porky's" Clark, is opportunistic or whether it's about opportunism. The fact that From the Hip stars Judd Nelson, whose ambitions vastly outpace his limited talents, blurs the issue even further. Like Porky's, From the Hip is a forked-tongue movie. Where the teen comedy exalted and punished sex, this court appeal both celebrates and deplores careerism.

By showboating in the courtroom (and resorting to all manner of illegal defense), Robin takes a routine case and makes it a media event, getting the guilty party acquitted. Thus he earns a partnership - and shakes the faith of his morally pure fiancee (Elizabeth Perkins, required here only to be photogenic).

Robin's legal crimes get him his promotion. His punishment is to defend suspected murderer Douglas Benoit (John Hurt), whom one character describes as ''a combination Charles Manson and William Buckley." Once Hurt enters, the comedy chills. Benoit pleads innocent, but Robin believes otherwise. Benoit is so corrupt that he awakens Robin's scruples. Professionally, he must defend this murderer, but morally, he can't.

From the Hip's lesson, that the ethical route is not always the moral route, is a ripe philosophical issue. But as caricatured here, Robin's jurisprudence might be justifiably called the Hypocritic Oath.

FROM THE HIP * *

Produced by Rene Dupont and Bob Clark, directed by Bob Clark, written by David E. Kelley and Bob Clark, photography by Dante Spinotti, music by Paul Zaza, distributed by De Laurentiis Entertainment Group.

Running time: 1 hour, 51 mins.

Robin Weathers - Judd Nelson

Jo Ann - Elizabeth Perkins

Douglas Benoit - John Hurt

Roberta Winnaker - Nancy Marchand

Craig Duncan - Darren McGavin

Parent's guide: Rated PG (obscenity).

Showing: At area theaters.

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