Attorney Ben Chase successfully defends Martin Thiel, a wealthy, young playboy, getting him acquitted of a series of brutal murders — only to find out later that Thiel is indeed a serial killer. Since Thiel cannot be tried again for his crimes, Chase tries to get him to incriminate himself before he can kill again.
Gary Oldman as Ben Chase
Kevin Bacon as Martin Thiel
Tess Harper as Detective Stillwell
Karen Young as Ellen Faulkner
Joe Don Baker as Detective Mesel
Sean McCann as Jacob Fischer
Ron Lea as Gary Hull
Michael Sinelnikoff as Professor Clemtes
Elizabeth Shepherd as Dr. Thiel
Criminal Law received a decidedly unfavorable reaction from critics, with a 33% "rotten" rating on review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes. Roger Ebert called the film "a textbook example of a movie going wrong before our very eyes."
Oldman's performance is generally regarded as one of the worst of his career. The film marks his first use of an American accent, which was derided by many critics for rendering his dialogue "forced and stilted". Peter Travers of Rolling Stone gave a scathing appraisal of the performance, writing: "Oldman is a powerhouse... But what's a British actor doing playing a Harvard attorney in a Boston-based movie shot in Montreal? Flailing about like a drowning man, that's what. Oldman's [accent is] laughably in-and-out." He added that "Bacon delivers the film's one modulated performance — and he's the psycho."