Judgment Day: The Ellie Nesler Story (1999) starring Christine Lahti, Mary Kay Place, Andrew Ducote, Robert Bockstael, John Bourgeois, Diana Reis, David Hemblen, Barry Corbin directed by Stephen Tolkin Movie Review

Judgment Day: The Ellie Nesler Story (1999)   3/53/53/53/53/5

Christine Lahti in Judgment Day: The Ellie Nesler Story (1999)

A Different Time to Kill

When her seven year old son Brandon (Andrew Ducote) returned from Christian summer camp Ellie Nesler (Christine Lahti - No Place Like Home) noticed that he was acting differently, more reserved and quieter than when he went away. Eventually Ellie discovered that one of the camp leaders Daniel Driver (Robert Bockstael - Homeless to Harvard) had sexually abused him whilst he was away. Much to Ellie's shock she also learns that Daniel had been in trouble with the law for similar behaviour but had always managed to find a way to avoid jail. When Daniel manages to find a way out of this case as well Ellie takes matters in to her own hands and guns down Daniel outside the court leading to a murder trial which split opinion amongst the public over what Ellie did.

"Judgment Day: The Ellie Nesler Story" is in a few ways similar to "A Time to Kill"; we have an initial crime, a court case and then a parent taking matters into their own hands when the legal system fails them and then their subsequent court case. But "Judgment Day: The Ellie Nesler Story" is not some big screen drama with big stars but a smaller made for TV movie with some recognizable faces. That gives it a very different tone and director Stephen Tolkin employs a very different style with the story flicking about all over the place from scenes in the courtroom, scenes after Brandon is abused and becoming sullen as well as flashbacks to Ellie's own past and being abused all mixing together. It is a style which not so much killed the movie but spoiled it for me as when we are taken to the courtroom scenes we are never entirely sure which case it is, Daniel Driver's trial or Ellie's trial for murder.

Robert Bockstael in Judgment Day: The Ellie Nesler Story (1999)

Now aside from the style and tone "Judgment Day: The Ellie Nesler Story" also suffers from then trying to be documentary like with the insertion of faux interviews which just adds to what often borders on a mess. There are also some scenes which are going to rile the audience up such as one which suggests that a boy being abused could become bisexual. What I am getting to is that even before you look at how the movie deals with the subject of sexual abuse and the court cases "Judgment Day: The Ellie Nesler Story" is a movie which has problems.

The one thing which I am strangely glad off is that when it comes to Ellie's actions it decides to sit on the fence. It is a wise move because in doing so it is able to show both sides of the situation leaving the audience to make up their own minds whether to side with Ellie or not.

What this all boils down to is that "Judgment Day: The Ellie Nesler Story" could have been a truly powerful movie about a woman driven to the extreme to get justice and protect her son. But the style and editing choices drag it down making it very hard to get into. And that doesn't even take into account Barry Corbin's larger than life performance as a lawyer with long silver hair.