Movie review of “The Whole Truth”: Renée Zellweger, Gabriel Basso and Jim Belushi are the most interesting actors in this flat courtroom drama. Rating: 2 stars out of 4.

Share story

A flat courtroom drama, “The Whole Truth” would have worked better as a police procedural with a criminal trial for dessert: the kind of tense whodunit with a deliciously delayed revelation.

Which makes it all the more curious that the film’s director, Courtney Hunt (“Frozen River”), has previously helmed a couple episodes of “Law & Order: Special Victims Unit.” The long-running television program’s gift for flipping viewer assumptions about an investigation or a legal proceeding is exactly the shocking energy “The Whole Truth” needs.

Movie Review ★★  

‘The Whole Truth,’ with Keanu Reeves, Renée Zellweger, Gabriel Basso, Jim Belushi, Gugu Mbatha-Raw. Directed by Courtney Hunt, from a screenplay by Rafael Jackson. 93 minutes. Rated R for violence, including sexual assault. Varsity.

Instead, half the film laboriously unfolds before a judge and jury. A taciturn teenager, Mike (Gabriel Basso), is on trial for the murder of his father, Boone (Jim Belushi). With his anxiety-ridden mother, Loretta (Renée Zellweger), watching, the largely uncooperative defendant is represented by wily attorney and longtime family friend Ramsey (Keanu Reeves) and second chair Janelle (Gugu Mbatha-Raw).

When we’re not watching the prosecution and defense do their thing, we’re seeing flashbacks underscoring Ramsey’s cynical contention that witnesses lie. Or we get glimpses of Ramsey’s personal isolation and eccentricity (he works out of a cheap motel room). Or we’re tracking his evolving, platonic relationship with Janelle.

Yet none of that really means anything, given the lack of a point-of-view. At one juncture, Ramsey tells Janelle her role in court is to serve as “mixed-race window dressing.” In reality, she’s an objective outsider who could have courageously cracked the film’s core mystery. That would have been something to see, but she’s too weak a character.

The film’s bleached colors and Reeves’ trademark woodenness add to its emotional remoteness, though Basso, Zellweger and Belushi create a convincing family in crisis. Zellweger, especially, delivers a fascinating, complex performance as a damaged survivor.