Absence of Malice (1981)

PG  |   |  Drama, Romance, Thriller  |  18 December 1981 (USA)
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Ratings: 6.9/10 from 8,953 users  
Reviews: 72 user | 22 critic

When a prosecutor leaks a false story that a liquor warehouse owner is involved in the murder of an union head, the man's life begins to unravel.



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Nominated for 3 Oscars. Another 3 wins & 5 nominations. See more awards »



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Cast overview, first billed only:
Barry Primus ...
John Harkins ...
Don Hood ...
Arnie Ross ...
Phanie Napoli ...
Nickie (as Anna Marie Napoles)
Shelley Spurlock ...
Joe Petrullo ...


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 garykmcd

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


The D.A., Feds and the police set her up to write the story that explodes his world. Now he's going to write the book on getting even. See more »


PG | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:






Release Date:

18 December 1981 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Ausencia de malicia  »

Filming Locations:


Box Office


$12,000,000 (estimated)


$40,700,000 (USA)

Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:


Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
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Did You Know?


The name of the newspaper in the film is 'The Miami Standard'. See more »


The union workers who struck Michael told him that if their union cards were pulled they would not be able to work anywhere. Florida is a right to work state and you don't need to have a union card to work. They would be considered "scabs" but they would be able to work at any dock in Miami. See more »


James A. Wells, Assistant U.S. Attorney General: You're a smart man, Mr. Gallagher. I'm pretty smart myself. Don't get too smart.
Michael Colin Gallagher: Everybody in this room is smart, and everybody was just doing their job, and Teresa Perrone is dead. Who do I see about that?
James A. Wells, Assistant U.S. Attorney General: Ain't nobody to see. I wish there was. You're excused, sir.
See more »


Referenced in Absence of Malick (2003) See more »

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User Reviews

20 October 1998 | by (Iowa City, IA) – See all my reviews

There's really no other word for it. I find the whole of this movie compelling, from Sally Fields' naivete to Paul Newman's innocent who turns the tables on his prosecutors, to the various supporting characters who all have their little niche. The best of all is Wilford Brimley, who gets to chew scenery and totally steal the scene he's in. It's an intelligent drama, addressing a subject as relevant today as it was in '81, with just enough humor to leaven the whole thing.

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Wilford Brimley was great bstar56
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