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Carolyn Polhemus, an up-and-comer in the Kindle County D.A.'s Office, is found viciously murdered in her home. Immediately her boss, D.A. Raymond Horgan and his chief deputy, Rusty Sabich start an investigation. Horgan, however, is in the middle of a campaign to keep his job, which he ultimately loses to former subordinate Nico Della Guardia. Della Guardia and his new deputy, Tommy Molto, decide to prosecute Sabich for Carolyn's murder when it is revealed that Sabich was a former lover of Polhemus. Horgan also turns against his former subordinate, and Rusty soon realizes he has few friends left - except for Sandy Stern, whom he has often faced on the other side of the courtroom, and who will become his new defense lawyer when he is put on trial for murder. Investigation by Stern and his team leads them to think that Rusty was framed for murder - by Molto, who wanted Sabich's job and was trying to punish him for backing Horgan. Is Rusty Sabich innocent...or is he a murderer? Written by
On several occasions, Rusty Sabich refers to his boss, Raymond Horgan, as Raymond Horrigan. See more »
I'm a prosecutor. I'm part of the business of accusing, judging and punishing. I explore the evidence of a crime and determine who is charged, who is brought to this room to be tried before his peers. I present my evidence to the jury and they deliberate upon it. They must determine what really happened. If they cannot, we will not know whether the accused deserves to be freed or should be punished. If they cannot find the truth, what is our hope of justice?
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Presumed Innocent is directed by Alan J. Pakula, who also co-adapts for the screen with Frank Pierson from the Scott Turow novel. It stars Harrison Ford, Brian Dennehy, Bonnie Bedelia, Raúl Juliá, Paul Winfield, John Spencer and Greta Scacchi. Music is scored by John Williams and Richard Wolf, and cinematography is by Gordon Willis.
Prosecuting attorney Rusty Sabich (Ford) suddenly finds himself a murder suspect after his one time lover, Carolyn Polhemus (Scacchi), is found raped and murdered in her home. As the evidence piles up against him, and his marriage comes under further strain, Rusty hires top lawyer Sandy Stern (Juliá) to represent him when the case goes to trial. Battling the system that he knows inside out, Rusty finds that there's a big can of worms about to be opened.
A tip top court room mystery drama that we could do with seeing more of these days. Expertly strung together by the director of All the Presidents Men and Sophie's Choice, Presumed Innocent isn't just a by the numbers legal who done it? The makers get in deep with the political machinations of a district attorney's office, the intricate steps of a police investigation, and of course the legal eagle operations of a court room. In to the mix is an horrendous crime, of which a lawyer himself is charged with committing, he may or may not be guilty of the crime, but wonderfully we are never sure until the astonishing finale plays out. The air of mystery hangs heavy throughout, nagging away like an itch you can't scratch, with Pakula neatly unfolding the drama in a collage of flashbacks, side-plots and present time intricacies. Mood is heightened by the photography of Gordon Willis, who along with Pakula's looming camera work, manages to convey a claustrophobic feel in keeping with an unstable marriage and a court room itself.
A great cast is assembled for the picture. Ford expertly plays it low key, brooding intently, he makes us unsure as to his guilt or innocence, and that's a testament to how good his performance is. Bedelia is excellent as the stoic wife, holding it together as the marital cracks begin to appear, and Juliá dominates the second half of the picture as we shift to the court room. Dennehy does a nice line in morally compromised smarm, and Scacchi wonderfully exudes a femme fatale sexuality. Winfield is a mighty presence as the judge presiding over such a tricky case, and Spencer is as reliable as ever. Only disappointments come with the performances of Joe Grifasi and Tom Mardirosian, who as the prosecutors come across as wimpy and hardly brick tight lawyers trying a high profile murder case.
An intense and intellectual adult drama, Presumed Innocent is one of the best of its type from the modern era. 8.5/10
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