Picks and Pans Review: Deliberate Intent

updated 08/07/2000 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 08/07/2000 AT 01:00 AM EDT

FX (Sun., Aug. 6, 8 p.m. ET)

This real-life drama climaxes before a federal appeals court, so it doesn't turn on a nose-to-nose confrontation between righteous lawyer and hostile witness. But FX's first original movie finds fairly effective means of dramatizing a constitutional question: First Amendment notwithstanding, can the publisher of a how-to book called Hit Man be held liable if a criminal uses it as a manual in committing murder?

The film gets a boost from a strong cast, including NYPD Blue's James McDaniel as a man who contracted for the murder of his ex-wife, his disabled son and a nurse in 1993; Clark Johnson (Homicide: Life on the Street) as the hired killer and Hit Man reader; and Timothy Hutton and Ron Rifkin as the attorneys who go after the ever-sneering publisher (Bill MacDonald). The advocates shout too much in the courtroom scenes, but Hutton's low-key readings from the book provide chilling accompaniment to the flashbacks of Johnson methodically doing his dirty work.

Bottom Line: Makes its case

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