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“My cousin Vinny” is a movie about two friends (Stan Rothenstein and Gambini Billy) who are mistakenly charged with murder. The two are New Yorkers who are travelling in Alabama and trouble begins when they forget to pay for a tuna at a convenience store. The attendant is short dead shortly after they leave the store and the description of the witnesses leads the police to arrest the two in a case of mistaken identity. Billy calls his mother and explains what has happened and the mother tells them that there is a lawyer in the family who will defend them. The lawyer, Vinny, is a cousin to Billy and that is where the name of the movie comes from.
Vinny has never taken a case before and he has to lie to the judge in order to be allowed to proceed. He has attempted to take the bar for at least six times in six years. Throughout the movie, the judge doesn’t seem to trust that the lawyer is qualified enough to preside over such a sensitive case. Vinny begins on very bad footing as seen by his outright disrespect to the judge. He also does little to conceal his ignorance of the procedures of the court room. He comes dressed in a tuxedo and he doesn’t bother to cross examine the witnesses during the initial hearing.
As the case develops, it seems that the prosecution has a very strong case. Billy and Stan are afraid that it will end in a conviction so they decide to fire their lawyer. At this point, Vinny requests for one more chance to cross examine a witness and when he is allowed, he manages to salvage his reputation. Even though the public defender has some questions that are ill-prepared and it appears that the case is no more in their favor, Vinny comes out strongly with his questioning style that is not only perceptive but also aggressive. He succeeds to quickly discredit the testimony that was given by the first witness. Vinny continues to have a very successful cross-examination of the remaining witnesses but he faces a bottleneck when the DA brings to the stand a surprise witness that hadn’t appeared in the cross examination. The witness (Wilbur George) is an FBI agent who appears to drive the last nail in the coffin by confirming that he had examined the tire tracks at the scene of the crime and confirmed that they were identical to Billy’s Skylark.
At this point, Vinny has almost given up and he even sarcastically derides Lisa (his girlfriend) about her detailed photos of the tire tracks. She gets annoyed and walks out on him. Vinny however realizes that the photos of the tire marks are the key to the case. The marks are not only flat but they are also even; suggesting that the two didn’t make a rush exit. He manages to convince his girlfriend (Lisa) who is an expert in automobiles to give her testimony. She reveals that according to expert analysis, the tire marks left were not consistent with those of an escaping Skylark. She eliminates Billy’s car as a possible getaway car by saying that the only two models that we capable of leaving such a track were either a Pontiac Tempest or a Corvette. The Pontiac, she reveals, is similar to Billy’s Skylark. The FBI agent confirms this. This leads to the case being dismissed.
Even though the judge and even Billy and Stan were in doubt of Vinny’s ability to make a strong case, he proves them wrong in the long run. The judge actually apologizes for initially doubting his litigation skills and Billy and Stan are thankful that they reconsidered their decision to fire him. The movie ends with Lisa and Vinny arguing in their car about their marriage plans.
My Cousin Vinny. Dir. Lynn Jonathan. Perf. Pesci Joe, Marisa Tomei, Macchio Ralph, Whitfield Mitchell, Gwynne Fred, Lane Smith. Twentieth Century Fox, 1992. DVD.