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Absence of Malice (1981)

PG  |   |  Drama, Romance, Thriller  |  18 December 1981 (USA)
6.9
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Ratings: 6.9/10 from 8,451 users  
Reviews: 71 user | 20 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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Title: Absence of Malice (1981)

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Nominated for 3 Oscars. Another 4 wins & 4 nominations. See more awards »

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Cast

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

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

Taglines:

Suppose you picked up this morning's newspaper and your life was a front page headline... And everything they said was accurate... But none of it was true. See more »


Certificate:

PG | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

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Details

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Language:

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Release Date:

18 December 1981 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Ausencia de malicia  »

Filming Locations:

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Box Office

Budget:

$12,000,000 (estimated)

Gross:

$40,700,000 (USA)
 »

Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

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Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
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Did You Know?

Trivia

First screenplay of writer and former reporter Kurt Luedtke. Luedtke was formerly part of a Pulitzer Prize winning team who worked on a Detroit newspaper. Luedtke, a veteran newspaperman, based Michael Gallagher (played by Paul Newman), the protagonist of this film, on the real-life son of a reputed mobster in Detroit. The alleged gangster was tried and convicted of labor-related extortion. At his retrial, potential jurors were asked if they had seen this movie so as to determine if they would be prejudiced in their evaluation of the evidence. Ultimately, the man and his partner were both convicted and sent to jail. See more »

Goofs

Gallagher brings a bottle of wine to Meg's apartment and it is seen on the counter. The next time it is seen, it has been rotated, and the next time it is seen, it has shifted position towards the end of the counter. See more »

Quotes

James A. Wells, Assistant U.S. Attorney General: Tell you what we're gonna do. We're gonna sit right here and talk about it. Now if you get tired of talking here, Mr. Marshal Elving Patrick there will hand you one of them subpoenas he's got stuck down in his pocket and we'll go downstairs and talk in front of the grand jury... Elliot? Jim?... Fine. All right, Elving, hand whichever one of these fellas you like a subpoena and we'll go on downstairs and talk in front of the grand jury.
District Attorney James A. Quinn: Gallagher's a government witness.
James A. Wells, Assistant U.S. Attorney General: Wonderful thing, a ...
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Featured in The 58th Annual Academy Awards (1986) See more »

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User Reviews

 
Requiem for two heavyweights...
3 October 2008 | by (United Kingdom) – See all my reviews

I taped this lauded 80's movie months ago and prompted by the recent death of Paul Newman, finally made time to watch it, only realising as I did so that its director too, Sydney Pollack, has also lately taken his last bow. The film is about the corrupting power of trial by newspaper to damage and sometimes destroy innocent lives and in this particular case of one man's courage and ingenuity in fighting back, even for what seems in the end a Pyrrhic victory against his malefactors. Pollack's favoured ouevre certainly seemed to be contemporary thrillers, often positing a faceless establishment body, personified by dehumanised no-names and their usually destructive oppression of innocent individuals. Although dated by things like contemporary fashions and background music, (no-one surely can defend this era for its style and music!) these films (and there were loads of them in the mid 70's and early 80's - "All the President's Men", "Dog Day Afternoon", "The Verdict", to name but a few, often directed by the two Sydneys, Pollack and Lumet, and peopled by acting heavyweights like Pacino, Redford, Newman, Winger and Fonda) represent a largely neglected sub-genre of quality movie-making rarely seen today. The film at hand here, "Absence of Malice" occasionally lacks narrative drive and suspense but makes up for that with everyday realism, for example drawing in themes on disparate subjects like abortion and trade-union relations. With Pollack's usual high-standard cinematography, particularly his naturally-lit interiors and indeed exteriors, you always feel that this fictional story could actually be happening here and now. It's helped by good dialogue and the skills of the ensemble acting cast. Newman walks away with the acting plaudits, effortlessly drawing the viewer's sympathy and admiration although I was very impressed by Melinda Dillon's underplaying of her part as Newman's "close personal friend", caught in the cross-fire and also Wilford Brimley's cameo as the State Department official who effectively acts as judge and jury at the mini-courtroom climax. Sally Field, who was briefly, at this time, the it-girl for modern-day character parts, lacks some heft alongside the predominantly male cast and at times plays the part more like Jean Arthur than Faye Dunaway. You can also see her acting at key points, particularly in the scene when Newman loses his temper and almost assaults her. Despite a brief (perhaps unnecessary) romantic liaison between the two leads, the film ends satisfyingly with an enigmatic shot of Newman sailing (literally) into the sunset leaving a chastened Field behind. In conclusion then, an intelligent, thought-provoking, well-structured and plotted movie, its main theme still relevant today in tabloid-land.


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Megan is a poor excuse for a reporter caladon
Wilford Brimley was great bstar56
6.8? azumahh
Where did the movie take place? motyka
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