An Innocent Man (1989) - Plot Summary Poster


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  • Jimmie Rainwood was minding his own business when two corrupt police officers (getting an address wrong) burst into his house, expecting to find a major drug dealer. Rainwood is shot, and the officers frame him as a drug dealer. Rainwood is convicted of drug dealing, based on the perjured evidence of a police informant. Thrown into a seedy jail, fighting to prove his innocence is diffucult when he has to deal with the realities of prison life, where everyone claims they were framed.

  • Jimmie Rainwood is an ordinary man whose life is turned upside down when two (corrupt) cops, who took down the wrong address, bursts into his house, thinking that there would be drugs. To cover themselves up, they place a gun in Rainwood's hand and drugs all over his house. The fact that it's his word against two cops and that also the prosecution used some small indiscretions from his past to make him look bad, Rainwood is found guilty and sentenced to six years in prison. Rainwood tries to make the best of it, but when one of the cons sets his sights on Rainwood, Rainwood is told by one of con's rivals that he has to take out the con before he does anything serious to Rainwood. After being beaten up and witnessing just how sadistic the con is, Rainwood takes him out with help from Virgil, a con who's in prison because of the two cops who framed Rainwood. Rainwood's paroled after three years, and tries to get on with his life but the two cops who framed, are worried that Rainwood might come after them so they warn Rainwood not to do anything. And that inspires him to go after them with Virgil's help.


The synopsis below may give away important plot points.


  • Jimmie Rainwood (Tom Selleck) is a respected maintenance chief with American Airlines in Los Angeles. He has a beautiful, successful wife (Laila Robins) and a nice home in the suburbs. Life is good.

    Meanwhile, two rogue narcotics cops take down a cocaine smuggling operation aboard a fishing boat at the Long Beach waterfront. One armed suspect is wounded during the bust. The officers' behavior during the arrest unmasks their violent and unorthodox methods. One of the cops, Mike Parnell (David Rasche), carries the confiscated cocaine from the boat, stopping to put a couple of kilos in his car trunk before turning the rest over to a supervisor who arrives to take charge of the operation.

    Jimmie Rainwood arrives at home that same evening, expecting an empty house and salad in the fridge. Instead, he is surprised to find his wife home early and a steak dinner waiting for him. Jimmie and Kate make plans for a last luxury vacation before they have kids.

    The next day, Officers Mike Parnell and Danny Scalise (Richard Young), both adrenaline junkies, stop at a phone booth to call an informant. As Parnell prepares to dial the call, he turns his back to Scalise and snorts coke from a vial he is carrying. The informant tips Parnell off to a suspected drug deal taking place that evening. Delighted, Parnell returns to the car and relays the address to his partner, but recklessly confuses "Oak Lane" for "Oak Way."

    Rainwood arrives at home that evening to find the empty house and cold salad he expected the night before. As Rainwood showers, Parnell and Scalise creep up to the house. After carefully peering inside, they break down the front and back doors and storm into the house while Rainwood uses the hair dryer. Rainwood hears the loud noise and steps out into the hallway, dryer in hand. Amped up by the tense situation and the cocaine, Parnell mistakes the hair dryer for a weapon and shoots Rainwood, seriously wounding him. Scalise enters from the back of the house and quickly realizes that the supposed weapon is a hair dryer. They search the premises and find no drugs. Realizing they are in the wrong house, they use a drop gun and planted drugs to frame Rainwood and cover their tracks. Kate arrives to find her husband seriously injured and falsely accused of selling narcotics and shooting at police officers.

    An Internal Affairs officer, John Fitzgerald (Badja Djola), is suspicious of the cops' story but has no proof with which he can challenge their version of events. The crooked narcotics officers coerce their seedy informant into falsely testifying that he had bought drugs from Rainwood on several occasions, and that Rainwater had used his airline maintenance job to smuggle the drugs into the country. Rainwood is confident that justice will prevail and therefore refuses a misdemeanor plea deal, since it would ruin his career. Shockingly, he is convicted of felony assault and drug distribution and sentenced to six years in prison.

    Rainwood is totally unprepared for the harsh realities of prison life. Soon after his arrival, his cellmate is shanked and burned alive in a prison yard vendetta. Rainwood decently but foolishly tries to rescue the dying man, but he is quickly tackled by lifer Virgil Cane (F. Murray Abraham) before the guards can shoot him. Rainwood tries to hang on to the morality of the outside world inside the prison walls, but he quickly realizes that won't be possible. He is quickly targeted for domination by a black prison gang and their brutal leader, Jingles (Bruce A. Young). Offered protection by an Aryan Nation gang in the prison, he declines, considering them an equally vile option. Not wanting to become a helpless pawn, "Jimmie Rain" is offered help by Virgil Cain, who was once set up by the same pair of dirty cops. Jimmie agrees to think about it, but refuses to consider solving his problem by killing anyone.

    Soon afterward, Rainwood is cornered by Jingles and two muscled-up members of his posse. When he refuses to give them his "outside money," he is viciously beaten, ending up in the infirmary. He refuses to identify his attackers to the warden, earning him 15 days in segregation. Back in the general population, he is once again confronted by Jingles, who taunts him about the beating. Virgil offers him advice once again, but Jimmie isn't ready yet. Then in the gym one day, Rainwood is seized by Jingles and his crew, hustled into the bathroom, and made to watch the brutal rape of an inmate who was "sold" to them. Jingles makes it clear that the same fate is in store for Jimmie, and soon.

    Rainwood goes to Virgil and says he is finally ready to deal with his problem. In the prison workshop, a thick piece of Plexiglass is fashioned into a shank. At Virgil's direction, some shaved soap is mixed into Jingles' eggs in the cafeteria serving line. During a subsequent basketball game, Jingles suffers severe intestinal cramps and heads for the bathroom. Rainwood follows him in. As Virgil covers the entrance, Jimmie silently approaches Jingles as he is getting up off the toilet. Jingles, seeing the shank, sneers at Rainwood and threatens to take it away and use it on him. Jingles feints at Jimmie but isn't quick enough. Rainwood buries the shank into Jingles' midsection and breaks it off. He drops the hilt into the floor drain and staggers out with the help of Virgil. The warden admits he can't prove anything but sends Jimmie into solitary confinement for 90 days.

    Back on the outside, the two rogue cops approach Kate in a parking lot and threaten her, advising her to keep her mouth shut and to quit agitating about her husband's case. She goes to Fitzgerald and pleads for his help. When he tells her once again that he can't do anything without proof, she lies and tells him that Parnell and Scalise used the n-word to describe him. He confronts the pair in an alley and warns them to leave her alone.

    Having served three years, Rainwood is paroled. Kate brings him home, and he tries to adjust to life on the outside. As he works on his classic Pontiac Firebird one day, Parnell and Scalise show up and tell him they need to have a talk. Inside the house, they threaten and intimidate him and Kate. They emphasize that as an ex-convict, they can make his life miserable. In desperation, Jimmie and Kate turn to Virgil, who concocts a plan to set up the crooked cops. They also meet with officer Fitzgerald, promising him a chance to bust Parnell and Scalise in the act of buying illicit drugs for the purpose of re-selling them.

    Parnell and Scalise have been busy taking down drug dealers in the area, stealing the bulk of the drugs, and selling them to a mobster named Donatelli at a discount. Rainwood and an accomplice from prison feed a bad tip to Parnell and Scalise through the informant who originally set Rainwood up. Acting on the tip, the dirty cops stage a raid and seize 25 kilos of cocaine. What they don't realize is that the drug dealers work for Donatelli. Donatelli demands the cocaine back by the following day. Parnell briefly muses to his partner about fleeing with the stolen drugs. That night, Rainwood and his accomplice, wearing ski masks, jump the surprised cops and steal the drugs. Donatelli has made it clear to Parnell and Scalise that he will kill them and their families if they don't return the cocaine. They stall Donatelli, telling him things are too hot at the moment and they will have to bring the coke back the next day. The desperate pair soon gets a phone call from the "frightened" hijackers, offering to return the drugs in exchange for a meager $20,000 in traveling money. Parnell and Scalise can't believe their good fortune. They decide to keep the drugs after the buy-back meeting and flee to Florida, $750,000 richer. The meet will take place at a marina.

    At the pre-arranged meet, Internal Affairs detective John Fitzgerald waits in his car and listens over a wire attached to Rainwood's accomplice, Malcolm. Malcolm approaches with part of the coke and explains that once he has the money, his partner will leave the rest of the drugs in a nearby trash barrell. But hot-headed Parnell grabs Malcolm and threatens to blow his brains out. He demands that the mystery bagman (Rainwood) step out of hiding with the remaining coke. When Rainwood reveals himself, Parnell sends Scalise to retrieve the drugs and then shoots Malcolm in the back. Detective Fitzgerald exits his car, identifies himself, and exchanges gunfire with Parnell. Scalise jumps in his car with the bag of drugs and tries to flee the scene, but Fitzgerald manages to kill him. Parnell hijacks another vehicle from a startled driver and speeds off, but Rainwood leaps into the back of the car and and grapples with him, causing a crash that throws Rainwood out, injured and stunned. Parnell continues his flight on foot. Just as he thinks he is home free, Rainwood comes out of nowhere and slams into him. A vicious and bloody hand-to-hand fight ensues, with Parnell finally pulling a knife and lunging at Rainwood. Rainwood disarms Parnell and starts to cut his throat, but he hears Kate (who has followed him) begging him to stop.

    In a final scene, Parnell enters the same prison that had held Rainwood. He hears someone call out to him from the cells above and looks up to see Virgil Cane grinning in derision. Jimmie Rainwood returns to his airline job.

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