Two-hour telepic “A Jury of One” is promoted as the pilot for a potential series “inspired” by real-life on-the-beat experiences of Joseph Wambaugh. Gritty and well-acted, production is pleasingly reminiscent of the previous Wambaugh anthology series, “Police Story.”
John Spencer stars as Mike Mulick, L.A. cop with a troubled past and current marital and drinking problems (not unlike the actor’s “L.A. Law” character, Tommy Mullaney). By the end of the film, Mulick has solved a perplexing series of killings and is on the road to emotional recovery.
Crime story is police procedural, with emphasis on the routine involved, rather than the mystery–to which virtually no clues are offered to either the gendarmes or the audience until a final crucial (and illegally-obtained) revelation solves everything.
More interesting aspect is as a character study, and Spencer and Eddie Velez are an appealing pair as Mulick and his partner, Tommy Alomar. Dan Lauria impresses as their boss, a real change-of-pace from his regular role as the grumpy, somewhat remote head of the Arnold family household in “The Wonder Years.”
Mulick is remorseful over his accidental killing of another cop while pursuing a pair of armed robbers. He’s turned to the bottle, and is in the process of losing his wife of only a few months (Cheryl Paris).
Pic takes a rather contrived turn as Alomar fixes him up with Christine Avila (Rachel Ticotin), whose husband was killed in the Gulf War by U.S. troops in an accident paralleling Mulick’s. She understands. End of story, which explains film’s title, is predictable substitute for confronting moral question raised by the crime.
Casting makes use of numerous skilled Mexican-American actors, in both positive and negative roles under the canny direction of Alan Metzger. Spencer is one of the more interesting actors on series television and role here seems particularly comfortable for him.
Wambaugh himself bookends the film with introductory and closing appearances per Rod Serling or Alfred Hitchcock, both of whom seemed far more at ease in front of a camera. Downtown and East L.A. locations feel authentic, and tech credits are fine.