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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
The courtroom featured in the film was built in the back lot. See more »
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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This is a very good film centering around a murder investigation and trial involving a chief deputy DA and a beautiful, young attorney in his office who is found murdered one morning. The direction, screenplay, and acting are all top notch and you never really know how it's going to turn out til the very end.
Harrison Ford is the deputy DA accused of murdering one of the female attorneys in his office. Ford's character is that of a strident upholder of the law who strays into marital infidelity. Caroline Polhemus, played by Greta Scacchi, is beautiful and manipulative, using her sexuality to get what she wants, career advancement and power.
Ford is assigned to head the murder investigation team, however, his boss, played by Brian Dennehy, loses his re-election bid a few weeks later and the new district attorney charges Ford with Caroline's murder. He knows Ford had had an affair with the victim and has physical evidence that he was at the murder scene and had been placing phone calls to her apartment in the days prior to her death.
The continuing investigation by Harrison Ford's team of lawyers and his friends in the DA's office and the trial highlight the remainder of this film. Events take strange twists and turns and the viewer is taken along for the ride without really knowing where it will take him. The ending is a bit of a surprise and neatly ties everything together.
The direction by Alan J. Pakula is tight and suspenseful. I thought it was his best film since the early days when he directed "Klute" and "The Parallax View" - certainly better than the muddled "Pelican Brief." The overriding theme of the movie is darkness, people hiding secrets from one another, and the direction emphasizes that. There are very few outdoor daytime scenes and most of the interior shots are of dark rooms and corridors.
Harrison Ford is good in the role of the besieged deputy DA, but I thought the secondary actors were the ones who made this picture as good as it was. Raul Julia plays Ford's attorney defending him in court and he's excellent (I thought it was his best role in any film). He's urbane and confident, and he steers the defense through a very difficult set of circumstances.
Bonnie Bedelia plays Ford's wife and her character is much more complex than that of the supportive wife standing by her man. She also has dark secrets of her own and she plays the part with sly understatement. John Spencer ("L.A. Law") plays an investigator in the DA's office helping Ford, Brian Dennehy plays Ford's boss who turns on him, and Paul Winfield plays the judge handling the trial, and all are excellent.
My only criticisms would come from Harrison Ford's character, who is so emotionally detached that it makes the circumstances of the affair with Greta Scacchi unbelievable. He's not an easy person to identify with or feel sympathy for, but the film is so well done that you can easily skip over that void and just sit back and enjoy the performances.
9 of 9 people found this review helpful.
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