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Alan J. Pakula
Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio,
Extortionist Jake Farley is found strangled, and the clues lead directly to former detective Joe Paris, who insists on his innocence but can't provide an alibi. Public defendant Jenny Hudson gets the case, but has problems unravelling the case, complicated by the fact that virtually everyone hated Farley, and Paris has a few enemies as well. She rejects the prosecution's offers to plea bargain, but meanwhile the witnesses she finds are discredited or silenced, and an unidentified patrol car shadows Paris and Hudson wherever they go. Written by
Ed Sutton <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Physical Evidence is one of those films that you want to like but really should be a lot better than it actually is. Developed as a sequel to Jagged Edge for Glenn Close and Robert Loggia, it gives the impression that all involved only made it while they were waiting for something better to come along. The premise is perfectly serviceable, it's mostly technically efficient if horribly uninspired with even Henry Mancini's musacky score surprisingly pleasant, but you can't help feeling that things would have turned out better if one of the leads had turned out to be the killer (as is rumoured was originally the case). As the opening scene of his little-seen, personally disastrous Heat (1986) showed, Reynolds has all the makings of a great screen villain. As is, there are few surprises and a feeling of half-hearted filming by numbers as it builds up a head of intertia as it ambles disinterestedly towards a less than grand will-this-do? finale.
Reynolds is fine, sailing through on charisma in what is clearly a star vehicle. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said of Theresa Russell. An impressive and fearless actress in husband Nic Roeg's films which allow her to delve into the darker side of human nature, she's trapped in a part that requires star quality rather than depth, and she ain't got it in spades. She doesn't fluff her lines or bump into the other actors, but that's about all that can be said in favour of her astonishingly stilted and often amateurish performance that lets the film down badly. Aside from Ned Beatty's prosecutor the supporting cast add only a slightly surreal presence in a Boston where everyone seems to have a badly disguised Canadian accent and the streets bear a startling resemblance to Toronto and Montreal.
Likewise, director Michael Crichton, who in Westworld, Coma and The First Great Train Robbery showed that he knew how to lean an audience to the edge of their seats, seems to handle the action in a purely perfunctory fashion - indeed, in one brief chase the shots don't even match and seem thrown together almost arbitrarily. The climax itself has no flair and is completely bereft of threat or danger, and many scenes are played for far less than they are worth. It's no great surprise that, aside from uncredited reshoots on The 13th Warrior, Crichton hasn't directed since.
Its watchable enough in an 80s TV movie sort of way, even if it never lives up to the promise of its opening. Whether that's enough of a reason to see it is down to individual taste.
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