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Mike Gallagher is a Miami liquor wholesaler whose deceased father was a local mobster. The FBI organized crime task force has no evidence that he's involved with the mob but decide to pressure him perhaps revealing something - anything - about a murder they're sure was a mob hit. The let Megan Carter, a naive but well-meaning journalist, know he is being investigated and Gallagher's name is soon all over the newspaper. Gallagher has an iron-clad alibi for when the murder occurred but won't reveal it to protect his fragile friend Teresa. When Carter publishes her story, tragedy ensues. Needing to make amends, Carter tells Gallagher the source of the first story about him and he sets out to teach the FBI and the Federal Attorney a lesson. Written by
For a while back in the seventies the hottest political property in New York State was one Maurice Nadjari. He was appointed a special prosecutor and ran up a big string of convictions of various figures on the New York scene.
Then his convictions began being tossed out one by one until a once feared figure became a laughingstock. Turned out he used tactics very similar to those countenanced by Bob Balaban in this film.
Nadjari turned out in the end to be worse than any of the people he was prosecuting. That's the message here, don't idealize some of these prosecutors on a white horse.
Bob Balaban is part of the Justice Department Strike Force looking into the murder of a labor leader in Florida. It's been months and his investigation is yielding bupkis. So he tries some extralegal tactics.
Paul Newman is the son of a reputed mobster, but who's been out of the rackets for years. But Balaban leaks to gullible reporter Sally Field that Newman is the target of his investigation. The idea is for Newman to go undercover and work to get information on his uncle, Luther Adler, who Balaban suspects.
Newman's reputation is smashed and Balaban's actions lead to the death of Melinda Dillon who is a friend of Newman's.
Paul Newman was nominated for Best Actor, but lost to Henry Fonda that year for On Golden Pond. Sally Field was at the height of her career. This film came right around the time she got her two Oscars for Norma Rae and Places in the Heart.
The leads and cast are just fine. This turned out to be the farewell picture of Luther Adler, one of the great character actors in the history of film.
However the two people this film really belongs to are Bob Balaban and Wilford Brimley. Balaban got his career role in this as Elliott Rosen of the Organized Crime Strike Force. He is truly one loathsome little creep. All it's about with him is getting another notch on his belt, another scalp for the lodgepole.
And then there's Wilford Brimley. He's the big honcho from Washington, DC sent down to do damage control when it all blows up in their faces. He gathers all the principals together at the very end of the film, like Nick Charles would, and dispenses the justice accordingly. He's on the screen for about twenty unforgettable minutes.
The office of prosecutor in our system is one of responsibility and should never be entrusted to any lightweights or any overly ambitious folks.
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