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Robert Preston portrays a grief-stricken dad who kills the man who raped and murdered his daughter. Beau Bridges is the lawyer who defends the man's actions in court. This film raises some deep issues about the justice system. It especially questions the notion that criminals seem to have more rights than victims and their families.
I saw this movie in 86, and later noticed it was remade, starring Beau
Bridges, in 97 "Defenders: Payback". Same premise carefully retold 11
years later, only with John Larroquette as the vigilante "I don't want
no attorney" father, instead of the original with Robert Preston.
Though the suspect chase would be used in the other "Defenders" TV
movie "Choice Of Evils".
More or less, a decent Hollywood justice type of film If you take it for what it is in that context. The main idea is to show the viewers that not all homicide cases are black & white. Instead, this film attempts to show (or rather pose to) the viewer, how YOU might react if your child's rapist or molester had been released on a technicality, even though he confessed to the crime. Would YOU become a vigilante too?
This is a film that makes us realize there is sometimes a difference between justice and the law. Robert Preston shines as the grief-stricken father, who, after a miscarriage of justice, takes matters into his own hands, and is put on trial for it. Beau Bridges, as his attorney, realizes there's something to the fight Preson is making. Mel Ferrer, as the judge who had to let a criminal go, is outstanding. His conscience bothers him, but he abides by the law he's sworn to protect. And Burgess Meredith is a crusty as ever. Some great old pros in this one.If this film doesn't make you think, you need to watch it again.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
As I mentioned in FINNEGAN BEGIN AGAIN, OUTRAGE! was Robert Preston's
last performance on film. He plays Dennis Riordan, a man of quiet
determination. His daughter was raped and murdered, and as a result his
wife died of the horror and strain of the tragedy. But what made it
worse was one of those legal technicalities came up regarding the even
handedness of the "fair trial" theory of our law. As a result the
perpetrator is released. So Preston, a few months later, tracks him
down and kills him.
Preston, of course, is arrested, and would have a perfect defense of temporary insanity. He refuses the suggestion of his lawyer Beau Bridges to use this defense. He knew what he was doing - killing a mad dog who destroyed his family. Of course, in our legal system, that is not a viable defense...or is it?
OUTRAGE! picks at the defects of the judicial system. The perpetrator was not stopped and seized by the police properly. He was grabbed because of a racially chosen reason (he did not racially fit into the neighborhood the police grabbed him in). Had the court not thrown the arrest and the evidence collected out, the perpetrator would have ended up in prison. But it is one of those "fruit of the poisonous tree" legal no-nos, because it is not based on a reasonable, non-biased reason to have suspected the perpetrator. That this view is actually ridiculous under the circumstances does not matter. As Ambrose Bierce points out, in one of his FANTASTIC FABLES, when a Supreme Court Judge allows a man the right to use a boat on a river that sinks and drowns him - the state of the boat was not brought to the Judge's attention! This, unfortunately, is a problem we all share (even, by the way, the criminals - I wish somebody would one day do a film showing a "successful" criminal tied up in knots by the legal system that has previously helped him). Bridges wants to find out why the perpetrator got out, and slowly finds it was a decision by Judge Mel Ferrer (a fine performance of a man who hates having to do such things). Bridges shows that this legal nit-picking is responsible for real loss of respect for the law.
SPOILER COMING UP: Bridges in his summation turns the situation around on it's head. He points out to the jury that what it all came down to was a legal decision for philosophical reasons to throw out important evidence against the rapist killer because it did not seem fair. So, Bridges says, he wishes that if it was up to him, the jury would consider the actual physical and eyewitness testimony against Preston as so much evidence that can be discarded for the same reason. The jury takes the hint, and releases Preston.
Preston's health must have been beginning to deteriorate (he died in 1987). His character has some good moments in the script, chatting with Bridges about the idiocies of a legal system he really can't understand. But he is not as central in the film as Bridges or Ferrer are. Still the film was thoughtful enough to make it a good final film for Preston's career to end with.
The most stunning thing about "Outrage" is not so much the intriguing
storyline, but rather the fact that it was produced by Irwin Allen, the
"Master of Disaster" of '70s cinema, and also responsible for erstwhile
sci-fi TV series of the '60s like "Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea" and
"Lost In Space." His productions are usually criticized for their lack
of attention to the finer details like the script and dramatic
performances. But here, he surprises his critics (and fans) with a
taut, and timely subject that is more "Law and Order" than "Poseidon
Adventure." No action sequences, no explosions or people running around
in rubber monster suits. Just good acting with a provocative plot line.
My only complaint is that Robert Preston's character seemed a bit 'dated' by 1986 in the way he lived through his religion....I mean, I didn't know many New York Irish Catholics in the '80s that were THAT religious (particularly a man). I assume the director wanted his Catholicism 'played to the hilt" to emphasis Preston was above reproach to further the courtroom dramatics.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
SPOILERS. Whoever wrote it went to the trouble of looking up some law. The
question it deals with is pretty interesting. A black man rapes and murders
a white woman in New York. When the alert goes out, the police capture the
rapist, stopping him because he is the only African-American on a street in
Little Italy. They take him to the station and search him, finding jewelry
from the victim in his pockets and scratches on his face. He is read his
rights but waives his right to an attorney because, "It won't do me no
good." Other evidence of culpability is collected, so there is no doubt
whatever that he is the rapist/murderer. But the evidence is subsequently
thrown out because the police did not have probable cause to stop him or
search him. Even his confession is supressed because, although he didn't
ask for an attorney during questioning, it seems he was on parole for a
previous crime (a rape) and the attorney appointed for that crime still
represented him, and so should have been present. A bit complicated, but
the victim's father, Robert Preston, simplifies things by blowing the
murderer away when he walks. This courtroom drama deals with Preston's
trial for murder. Preston is candid and sane. He shot the guy because the
law did not do its job.
The movie comforms to the classic template involving tension between the rights of the accused and the sanctity of the law. Too bad it's executed so perfunctorily. The performers aren't all bad. Mel Ferrer brings a quiet dignity to his role as a judge who sees himself as an instrument of the law, although he doesn't agree with it. Linda Purl, in the traditional role of female support for a hero filled with self doubt, wears big glasses and is as dainty as can be, her shoulders narrow, he limbs vulnerable looking, as if they could be snapped by the slightest pressure. She has enormous blue eyes and tiny lips that curl up at the outer edges, like Meg Ryan's. Her acting skills are modest but adequate to the job at hand. Burgess Meredith is another matter. I kind of like the guy, but sheesh he can overact. "No more OUTbursts! This is NOT a FOOTBALL game. This is a COURT of LAW!" His hair is a delightful mess but his smile is so taut that it seems to signal an immanent explosion. Robert Preston is okay but is more effective in lightweight roles. He has strong features and looks in fine shape for a guy who's career began back in the 1930s. Beau Bridges is the weakest performer and it's too bad because his role is critical. He just doesn't have much range. It wasn't much of a hinderance in some of his earlier performances but it is here, where real drama and the blessings of Thespia are required.
The director is of no help to him or anyone else. Blocking is professional enough but Bridges and Meredith are allowed to overact outrageously. Every question -- every statement that Bridges makes in the courtroom is treated as a climax. As a result the courtroom scenes suffer from multiple climaxes and leave the viewer sobbing with relief and gratitude when the verdict is finally delivered. I'll leave you to figure out what the verdict turns out to be.
Great movie! It really makes one think about how the Justice system really does work. Great story and performances by all, especially by Beau Bridges. See it!
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