Back Stab (1990)
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"Back Stab" is film neo noir with a flawed but attractive unoriginal story that holds the attention of the viewer. There are hot sex, sexy and fatal women, amoral plot, jazz soundtrack, but all of these components of a film noir are wasted, after the second plot point. The screenplay becomes totally absurd and incredible and the conclusion of the story is totally disappointing. My vote is six.
Title (Brazil): "Traição" ("Betrayal")
Note: On 17 October 2016, I saw this film again.
Just as Cliff, tired and exhausted from his sexual acrobatics with Jennifer, got out of bed to get dressed Jennifer for reasons known only to herself checked out of the place! Looking in the master bedroom Cliff to his shock and surprise finds his boss at the land development company Mrs. Chambers, Terrence Labrosse, dead from a massive loss of blood with a knife stuck in his back! Obviously innocent but having no way to prove it Cliff gets in touch with Juliet who, in trying to help her friend, gives him all the cash she has together with a new shirt, Cliff's was soaked with Mr.Chambers' blood, to skip out of the country.
Getting in touch with his lawyer Sara Rudnick, Meg Foster, Cliff is told to give himself up to the police and she'll defend him in court, if indited for Mr. Chambers' murder, which is what a scared and confused Cliff does. What Cliff doesn't is that he's been set up right from the start to take the fall for his boss' murder and the woman who he was with the night that Chambers was killed, Jennifer, wasn't what he at first thought that she was, Chambers' wife!
It's a race against time and the time is quickly running out for architect Cliff Murphy as all the evidence points to him and only him as being Mr. Chambers killer. Cliff soon realizes what a sap he was for falling right into the trap set for him, with even his lawyer Sara Rudnick not believing his fantastic story, and what clinched it is at his trial. At his trial the real Mrs. Chambers,June Chadwick, is called to testify against Cliff who turns out not to be whom he thought Mrs. Chambers, the woman he has an affair with the evening Mr. Chambers was found murdered, was! The very mysterious and elusive Jennifer!
Determined to prove his innocent with all the evidence, in his frame-up, fingering him as Mr. Chambers killer Cliff makes a daring escape from prison and then goes out on his own to find who set him up. It then when Cliff comes to the startling conclusion that it had to do with Mrs. Chambers, the grieving widow, herself! Mrs Chambers and her secret lover used Jennifer to frame Cliff in the murder that they both manically planned and later murderously perpetrated!
Shocking final ending, if a bit unbelievable, where Cliff gets to the bottom of both who murdered Mr. Chambers as well as who set him up in the murder. The big stumbling block to Cliff proving himself innocent is if he'll be able to have anyone, with the police minutes away, believe him if those involved stick to their preconceived stories as well as air-tight alibis!
Brolin wakes up in the middle of the night to find the young woman gone. Wandering around the house, he discovers the body of the wealthy businessman, stabbed in the back in an upstairs bedroom. He rushes to his associate's home, where she lives with her mother. He decides to contact hard-as-nails defense attorney Meg Foster and turn himself in.
At the ensuing trial, all evidence points to Brolin. The young blonde cannot be traced, and the businessman's blonde wife testifies that it was she herself who had the affair with Brolin. No one has seen them together. But her story is backed up by hotel records showing a reservation in her name that happened to have been next to a room in which Brolin stayed on a recent business trip. Brolin's fingerprints are at the scene of the crime, and his DNA is found in what turns out to have been the wife's car. There is talk that the businessman intended to replace or demote Brolin at the firm.
While being transported back to prison from court one day, Brolin sees a bus billboard with the young woman's picture on it. He tells his lawyer, but she is ready to throw up her hands with the case and advises him to plead guilty to manslaughter and take five years in jail.
Frustrated, Brolin manages to fool the guards into thinking he has been released on bail. Once free, he sets out for the advertising/modeling agency that he learns from a quick phone call was responsible for the billboard. He identifies the blonde woman's picture in a file, with her name and address written on the back. At her apartment, she confesses that she is a part-time model and escort who agreed to set up Brolin. She shows him a photograph she was given of him and his wife, with a third person's face torn off. They arrange to meet the next day, by which time the blonde says she can find out who hired her.
Brolin's lawyer, against her better judgment, agrees to let him sleep on the couch at her place that night. There is a silly scene where Brolin's character acts like a high school kid with a crush, as he looks longingly through frosted glass at Foster supposedly taking her clothes off in the next room, before shaking off the reverie and settling in on the couch. (The only nudity in the film is in the earlier, brief scene when Brolin and the young blonde spend time together at what turns out to be the businessman's house.) From there, the movie heads into its conclusion with a series of thin, hasty, choppy scenes. The next day, things go badly. Brolin ends up at his old office at night asking for help from his associate. When he finds the other half of the torn photograph, the pieces begin to come together on how and why he was set up. It was a conspiracy that included someone close to him who was supposedly duped into helping. Even though the frame was air-tight, the person claims, unbelievably, "I didn't know it would go this far, they said you would never be convicted." The movie ends with fist-fights and shootings, as Brolin confronts the culprits.
The movie can best be described as lightweight and lackluster. The characters, dialogue, and situations are not particularly clever, original, interesting, or believable. They simply keep the story moving in a linear, surface-level manner.
Brolin, acting earnest, befuddled, and wronged, and Foster, acting aloof, frosty, and tough, are adequate in thin, undeveloped roles. The rest of the cast is completely forgettable, playing non-descript or cardboard characters with little screen time. This is especially true of the drippy D.A. The movie's portrayal of a prosecutor (usually a meaty role) is the least impressive that I can recall of any courtroom drama.
The rushed, put-up scene where Brolin meets the blonde at the bar and within minutes is having sex with her in a car is implausible, as is his escape from prison. Also disappointing are the scenes, which only undercut the characters, where Foster unprofessionally gives up on Brolin in the middle of the trial, even as he has found a critical clue that she and her detectives themselves should have found and should be following up on, and then after his prison break equally suddenly and for no reason becomes convinced of his innocence. Brolin's unraveling of the solution to the murder, like the plot itself, appears hasty and superficial, dependent on a gift clue falling into his lap by accident.
With the elaborate frame-up, the movie looked like it might have some ingredients of an interesting murder mystery. At times, the cast and story were mildly entertaining. But it quickly became clear that the characters and story had only been developed in the most shallow of ways. In the end, the movie had too little substance to be satisfying.