If you were unfortunate enough to see Al Pacino's scenery gobbling in 88 Minutes, the new DVD of 1979's And Justice for All provides a much-needed refresher course in just how good he can be.
Pacino plays a righteous lawyer whose principles are challenged when he's called upon to defend a judge accused of a heinous crime. While he does a lot of shaking, hollering and preening, Pacino always remains in character, which is more than you can say for some of his other hambone performances. As the film's director, Norman Jewison, says in an interview on the DVD, Pacino knew when to pull back even when he seemed to be out of control.
Maybe one reason Pacino's energy is so calibrated in Justice is because the legendary acting-teacher Lee Strasberg was also in the cast. Pacino had studied with Strasberg, and they were very close.
Coming after The Godfather films, as well as Dog Day Afternoon and Serpico, the wildly uneven Justice is small potatoes. But it features Pacino at his most spirited and appealing.