Andy Garcia in Swing Vote (1999)

Scales of Justice

It was an interesting experience watching made for TV movie "Swing Vote" because for once the only thing I knew about the movie was that it starred Andy Garcia. I hadn't bothered to find out what it was about, whether a drama or comedy or how long, if you like I watched it with a completely open mind which I actually think is a good thing when you learn what it is about, and as such if you don't want to know stop now and watch the movie.

What we have in "Swing Vote" is a drama which at times has echoes of "12 Angry Men" as we have 9 Supreme Court Justices passing ruling on a case and there is a lot of persuasion and deals being made behind the scenes. But more importantly we have a movie which at its centre is about abortion and a case about the rights of the mother to choose and the rights of the unborn baby to a life. Sounds heavy but in truth it isn't and whilst not by any means perfect "Swing Vote" is surprisingly gripping.

Harry Belafonte in Swing Vote (1999)

After Supreme Court Justice Harlan Greene (Milo O'Shea) steps down due to ill health Joseph Michael Kirkland (Andy Garcia - Desperate Measures) finds himself appointed as the 9th justice in an important case over abortion. And Joseph quickly finds himself in the middle between the Justices who are pro-life and those who are pro-freedom of choice as the other 8 Justices are split down the middle. Refusing to be hurried or bullied Joseph takes his time to try and weigh everything up before making his decision.

Any movie which tackles the emotive subject of abortion is walking a dangerous line and this is where "Swing Vote" could have you spitting feathers. I say that because without giving anything about the story it doesn't take sides, showing the various arguments for the rights of the mother to choose and the rights of the unborn to a life. In doing so it does highlights various issues, brings to the fore the basics of each sides arguments and shows what a complex issue it is. For me personally I liked the fact that it doesn't takes sides and instead shows the complexity of the debate for what it is but can see how sort of sitting on the fence will annoy some.

Now ignoring the subject matter for a minute and what we have is sort of like a court room drama, and as already mentioned at times seems to have echoes of "12 Angry Men" as we have the 9 Justices debating over their decision and trying to basically win votes. Is it a gripping drama, yes and no because whilst it lacks the intensity and cleverness of other courtroom dramas the actual drama of these 9 Justices split over the law is interesting. And whilst some of it is seriously unbelievable it does embellish the situation nicely by not only bringing in Kirkland's own family situation but also secrets surrounding the other Justices. It means that whilst there will be moments which make you cringe for the most the debating and for want of a better word politicking going on behind closed doors is enthralling enough to keep you watching till the end.

Now what is a surprise is the number of recognizable actors who appear in what remember is a TV movie. Whilst Andy Garcia is the young star whose vote and passion is at the centre of this there are also the likes of Robert Prosky, James Whitmore, Ray Walston, John Aylward and Harry Belafonte. They all do a nice job of playing their part or at least looking the part of a Supreme Court Justice even though the majority of their characters lack any depth. In a way it is clever casting because these actors look the part and that goes a long way.

What this all boils down to is that "Swing Vote" is a surprisingly good TV movie which tackles the subject of abortion in a level headed manner. It is by no means great but it does a good job of simply getting across both sides of the argument when it comes to pro-life and pro-choice.