🎥🍣 Movie Sushi — My Cousin Vinny

AdGridley
5 min readNov 3, 2020

Stan and Bill are driving through Alabama on their way back to college. Shortly after accidentally taking a tin of fish from a truckstop, they see a police car following them. Suddenly, they’re in a police line-up for murder. Since they’re in the state of Alabama, they could both get the electric chair. Bill calls his mother for advice — she puts them in touch with Cousin Vinny.

Bill and Stan are carrying bedding to their new prison cell while they’re awaiting their arraignment. When Vinny arrives in the cell, Stan’s very wary of him. Only when Bill wakes up does he recognise Vinny as his cousin. This will be Vinny’s first murder case — he’s only done personal injury cases before this. He passed the bar exam just six weeks ago and so doesn’t immediately inspire the two murder suspects.

Vinny must first be approved by the judge if he wants to practise law in Beecham County. The Judge gives Vinny the Alabama Rules of Criminal Procedure to study — it’s a heavy book. At the arraignment, Vinny’s lounging on a desk. He initially doesn’t rise when he addresses the judge, who then also disapproves of Vinny’s black, leather blazer. The judge accuses him of insulting the integrity of the courtroom and Vinny’s held in contempt of court on $200 bail. Later, he hears of fiancée Lisa having been swindled while playing pool. He immediately descends on the bar — making an arrangement with good ol’ boy JT to fight for the money next time he stops by.

Three witnesses are testifying that Bill and Stan held up the truck stop and killed the clerk. Sheriff Farley himself testifies that Bill said “I shot the clerk”. In actual fact, this was said in disbelief before Bill had any knowledge of the murder.

Bill and Stan hear that cutbacks have meant that the electric chair is sub-par. It can take up to three attempts to work and even then, there’s no guarantee the victim’s head won’t first catch fire. Stan wants to go with the public defender instead. Both students have lost faith in Vinny. Only Bill agrees to allow Vinny one more chance.

Vinny sees a hunting trip with Jim, the prosecution, as a chance to finesse him and find out what he knows. In the car on the way there, Vinny asks for all the prosecution’s files. Jim easily agrees. Later on, Lisa says it’s called “disclosure.” Lawfully, he was forced to reveal everything anyway. Vinny’s path becomes clearer now. He finally gets to interrogate the witnesses for himself.

The New York State Office of Judicial Records has no record of any Vincent LaGuardia Gambini having ever tried any case in the entire state of New York. The judge presents this evidence to Vinny who quickly explains the mix-up. Vinny says he used to be an actor and that he had to subsequently change his name to Jerry Gallo. Later, one of Vinny’s huge punches decks JT from the pool hall, who surrenders the $200 from the floor.

In court, the judge wants an explanation for Vinny’s new, purple suit — even asking him if he’s on drugs, but Vinny can explain it and denies being on drugs. Then, Vinny sleeps through the prosecution’s emotional opening statement. He also sleeps through the public attorney’s terrible, stuttering opening statement. But, Vinny’s attempt at the first witness shows promise.

Mr Tipton was cooking grits for breakfast while the murder occurred. It was all over in five minutes, he says, yet Vinny establishes the time was longer since it takes twenty minutes for a true Southerner to make grits. The witness concedes that he may have been mistaken. Impressed by this performance, Stan switches lawyers back to Vinny. Vinny is in contempt again, but this time, he chooses to spend the night in prison where there’s background noise and he can sleep easier, him being used to New York City noises and not deafening countryside whistles, pigs squealing, trains rumbling and owls.

In court, Vinny despatches another key witness by emphasising that there were dirty screens, trees with many leaves on and even some bushes blocking the man’s view. This witness had previously claimed to have had a damning glimpse of the defendants sitting there in the courtroom.

Mrs Constance Riley takes the stand — complete with very thick glasses. To emphasise how bad her eyesight is, Vinny measures out fifty feet from her, then he holds up his fingers for her to count. When it’s proven she can’t see them, her testimony becomes suddenly groundless also.

Vinny’s called in to the judge’s chambers again. The judge has discovered that Jerry Gallo is dead. Vinny then corrects him saying that actually, his name is Jerry Callo — with a “c”.

Vinny cross-examines a last minute, scientific FBI witness. He proves that the tyre mentioned is the most popular type and size available — but this isn’t enough. With time running out, Vinny calls Lisa as an expert witness. She’s still upset over Vinny’s excessive sarcasm towards her earlier, so she’s sworn in reluctantly and without knowing what Vinny has planned. The prosecution examines her to discover that her whole family is comprised of mechanics and that she herself has excellent general automotive knowledge.

The prosecution asks her a testing question that she sees right through. She says it’s a trick question and goes on to explain to the court why it is. Her casually-taken photograph of the tyre-tracks leading away from the truckstop ends up admissible as evidence. Her technically-detailed testimony rubbishes that of the FBI expert earlier, who then withdraws his own.

Throughout the trial, she’s wanted to be useful to Vinny and she shines with this demonstration of car knowledge. The sheriff is then called back to the stand. A ’63 Pontiac Tempest was picked up recently one state over containing the murderers and the murder weapon. The defence rests and the state drops all charges — to much jubilation. In a ringing endorsement, the judge says that Vinny is one hell of a trial lawyer — Lisa got Judge Malloy from New York to vouch for Vinny. Now, he’s won a case, Vinny and Lisa argue happily about what sort of wedding they’ll have.

Starring Joe Pesci. Marisa Tomei. Ralph Macchio. Rated 15. Dir Jonathan Lynn. Released in the UK 1992. Runtime 2hrs.

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Ad teaches & gives speeches on his MH struggle + recovery at institutions right across the world. (Movie Sushi pieces contain spoilers)