Review: Goliath

Billy Bob Thornton in Goliath

Goliath is an Amazon Prime production starring Billy Bob Thornton and William Hurt as a modern day David and Goliath. Thornton as washed up attorney Billy McBride and Hurt as Donald Cooperman, the rich and powerful head of a corporate law firm, are at the heart of this story. Both offer brilliant performances.

The plot revolves around a boat explosion that a big weapons manufacturing corporation called Borns Tech passed off as a suicide. Jason Larson died in the explosion. His wife Gina (Sarah Wynter) and his priest (Gilbert Owuor) seem to agree with the suicide decision.

Larson’s sister, Rachel (Ever Carradine) doesn’t think her brother would commit suicide. She engages an newly minted attorney named Patty Solis-Papagian (Nina Arianda) to take her case. Patty thinks settling a case for cash is the best plan, but she’s afraid this case may require actually going to court and talking in front of a jury. So Patty goes to the formerly big time lawyer who now lives in a motel and spends most of his day in a bar: Billy McBride.

Patty wants Billy’s help to take on Borns Tech, which is represented by a very big Goliath of a law firm. Tilting at windmills, yes. But Billy sees a kernal in the case that captures him.

Billy Bob Thornton and Nina Arianda in Goliath
Billy Bob Thornton as Billy McBride and Nina Arianda as Patty

Nina Arianda has a wonderful time playing Patty. She annoys Billy at first, but they develop a kind of charming chemistry as the case wears on.

There are many woman in this cast. Many women. Some of them are developed and some are mere pasteboard. Ever Carradine as Rachel is one of the women who is written out enough for us (and Billy) to learn to like her.

Billy Bob Thornton and Tania Raymonde in Goliath
Tania Raymonde gives a great performance as Brittany.

Also working with Billy in his motel room/office is Tania Raymonde as Brittany. Brittany knows something about being a legal aid, and Billy hires her for that, but she makes her main income as a prostitute. Raymonde does a fantastic job with this role, she shows a lot of range.

Another legal aid working with Billy is Julie Brister as Marva. We don’t get to know Marva very well, but she’s damn good at her job.

The Goliath

William Hurt in Goliath
William Hurt is Cooperman

Donald Cooperman hangs out in his darkened office in the penthouse of Cooperman and McBride all day long. His face, shoulder and arm are covered with burn scars. Notice the McBride in the name of the law firm? Yep, Billy McBride started the company with Donald Cooperman. Now Cooperman hates him with the same passion he once devoted to loving him. Donald wants nothing more than to destroy Billy forever.

Donald uses a metal clicker as a talking device. He manipulates people like a puppeteer. His law firm is defending the weapons manufacturer Borns Tech. He picks an obscure junior attorney Lucy Kittridge (Olivia Thirlby) as his puppet of the moment, and seems to hand the case to her. He also takes her to his bed and makes her believe she was picked for her great legal talent. He’s not a nice guy, and he’s not nice to Lucy when she’s served her purpose. Olivia Thirlby shines in this part.

Damon Gupton, Molly Parker, and Olivia Thirlby in Goliath
Olivia Thirlby as Lucy, Molly Parker as Callie and Damon Gupton as Leonard Letts

The other outstanding female character around the Cooperman legal team is Molly Parker as Callie Senate. Mollie Parker is brilliant as the ruthless Callie, who will do anything to win a case. She doesn’t mind destroying Lucy in the process. She shares Donald Cooperman’s intense hatred for Billy McBride.

Maria Bello in Goliath
Maria Bello is Michelle McBride

Callie does have one weakness. She’s in love with McBride’s ex-wife Michelle (Maria Bello). Maria Bello got top billing in this drama, along with Thornton and Hurt, but she is underused in the part. She’s part of the Cooperman and McBride law firm, but not attached to the case brought by her ex. Her character is sorely in need of development. I haven’t heard anything about a second season for Goliath, but if there is one, Maria Bello better get a lot more attention.

The Borns Tech general counsel Leonard Letts (Damon Gupton) is always hanging around Cooperman’s office, offering advice on how to make this annoying case go away. Cooperman doesn’t want it to go away. He wants to use it to put down McBride. The head of Borns Tech, Wendell Corey (Dwight Yoakam) tells Letts to do whatever Cooperman says. Corey knows they were doing something illegal and he thinks Cooperman will protect his company.

You probably remember seeing Thornton and Yoakam together in Sling Blade, but they don’t have any scenes together in Goliath until the case finally reaches a courtroom.

Some Thoughts

David E. Kelley and Jonathan Shapiro created and wrote Goliath. I’m a long time fan of David E. Kelley. He always comes up with interesting characters and surprising plots. Goliath is no different with treachery, murder, frame-ups, sex, witness tampering, blackmail and corporate law-breaking featured in this 8 episode drama. In addition to the 2 male writers, all the directors were male as well.

Billy Bob Thornton is the perfect little guy. He has a sweet relationship with his teenage daughter (Diana Hopper) and is nice to stray dogs.

William Hurt is the perfect evil rich guy. Hurt plays his part beautifully as the rich CEO who thinks he’s entitled to do anything he wants with his power.

The battle between the two of them represents the battle between the 99% and the 1%, between the truth and corporate greed. Of course we are rooting for the underdog. In a sense we are rooting for ourselves, all of us little guys whose lives are impacted by big money interests every day.

The final episode of the season is titled “Citizens United.” The ending is a little ambiguous, there are some victories, some losses, and an interesting twist of fate.

We need to protect the little guys. The men and women who stand up for the truth against the companies that use income inequality as a weapon. We need to hope that the Donald Coopermans and Callie Senates of the world get what’s coming to them. And we need to hope that the Billy McBrides and Patty Solis-Papagians of the world get what’s coming to them in the best sense, too.

I can’t help but notice that the greedy rich guy is named Donald and his ruthless minion is named Senate.

Goliath is completely engaging. The cinematography is interesting and a bit unique. Many scenes start with aerial shots above sleek buildings housing wealth and power. Around Billy’s motel, however, the shots are always ground level. There’s a lot of darkness, especially in Donald’s office, but Billy rides around in the sunshine in a red Mustang convertible. I liked the score and the songs that were used. All in all, this was an quality series and I certainly recommend it.

All images via Amazon

5 thoughts on “Review: Goliath”

  1. I like Billy Bob Thornton, and certainly admire William Hurt as an actor. Wondering what Dwight Yoakam is doing in this movie…hope he brought his guitar and cowboy hat! I was relieved to see Molly Parker, as a mature actor, in this film. As I’ve said many times, I am uncomfortable with seeing young women playing opposite mature men such as Billie Bob and William. (Sigh), such is Hollywood.

    1. Dwight Yoakam does fine work as an actor, even without his guitar, so you’ll be pleased with that. But Olivia Thirlby and William Hurt together are going to offend you. The most offensive part of it to me wasn’t that he did it, but that she liked it and thought it was real love. Gah!

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