If you ever wondered what the TV series “Justified” would look like if Raylan Givens was a cutthroat trial attorney rather than a U.S. Marshall, then “Legal Action” is the film for you. This made-for-cable-TV movie with Eric Close as a stand-in for Timothy Olyphant plays like a pilot for a bizarre Justified/Matlock hybrid. Yet, thanks to some winning performances, it’s a mildly passable Prime Video entry.
Eric Close stars in “Legal Action” as a hotshot Nashville attorney (this movie was probably filmed while he was in the cast of “Nashville”) who has a trial winning streak that’s reached triple digits. As a favor to his ex-wife, Close agrees to take on the defense of her brother, who is accused of murdering the district attorney in their small Georgia hometown. The brother is actually an ex-con trying to go straight who ran afoul of the local crime boss (Tommy Flanagan) and is now under pressure from Flanagan’s goons to plead guilty. Close starts his own investigation and runs afoul of those same goons himself, leading to several confrontations both in and out of the courtroom.
Those expecting “Perry Mason”-styled theatrics in “Legal Action” will be sorely disappointed. Even Barney Fife could figure out who’s behind the killings in this case, but that’s not really the point. Before it got to Amazon Prime, “Legal Action” made its debut in 2018 on the INSP network, which features a lot of Westerns and action films. So, the courtroom takes a back seat to the gunroom here. Close’s character is the descendant of Texas Rangers and sports a Stetson hat to go along with his tailored three-piece suits. He also takes great pride in toting his gun collection around. Not to be outdone, villain Flanagan is also a firearms aficionado, and he and Close compare notes and weaponry to pass the time in one scene. It’s not too much of a spoiler to reveal that the two wind up slapping iron before the movie is over.
On those rare occasions when the writers remember that “Legal Action” is supposed to be about lawyers, the film becomes somewhat interesting. Viewers have a chance to see about two minutes of the trial during those rare moments Eric Close isn’t out doing some extremely juvenile-level sleuthing. The trial action is good, but the best scene in the entire film occurs in the first few minutes when the attorney convinces a department store’s lawyer not to pursue shoplifting charges against Close’s obviously guilty client.
Still, “Legal Action” is about as generic an action movie as you’ll find, without any of Elmore Leonard’s great one-liners that made “Justified” so memorable. Despite the extremely familiar plot of “Legal Action,” the core characters are entertaining, thanks to a couple of skilled supporting actors. Tommy Flanagan has a lot of fun as the flashy villain (the script even explains his Scottish brogue). However, Nick Searcy is even better as Close’s sort-of investigator, a hotel owner called “Ex” because he used to have all sorts of other occupations.
It’s no surprise that “Legal Action” wound up showing on a fourth-rate cable network and later as cheap Prime Video filler. Still, having seen many other similar low-budget titles, this movie is relatively well (albeit cheaply) made with some decent acting and production values (including some magnificent Georgia mountain scenery). I’m giving it a mild recommendation as an undemanding summer watch. In this case, “Legal Action” is better than no film action at all.