By Michael Sauter
July 14, 1995 at 04:00 AM EDT

In Murder in the First, Kevin Bacon is wrenching as Alcatraz inmate Henri Young, a beaten, broken man who survives three years of solitary only to come out and kill one of his fellow prisoners. But almost as good, in less showy roles, are Christian Slater, as an idealistic lawyer who defends Young against murder charges, and Gary Oldman, as a sadistic warden. Based on a controversial 1940s case, this prison-cum-courtroom drama starts out grim and brutal and ends up genuinely moving. The fact that the movie doesn’t leave you soaring on any feel-good clouds probably explains its poor box office numbers. But then, even the more uplifting The Shawshank Redemption had to go to video before it found its audience. A-

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