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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
Carolyn's name is spelled "Polehemus" on the bond slip, while in the credits it is spelled "Polhemus". 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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As a thriller this is top notch; as any kind of a movie it is also top notch. Based on Scott Turow's best-selling novel of the same name (his first), it relies on a well-coordinated directorial effort by Alan J. Pakula (Sophie's Choice 1982, All the President's Men 1976, Klute 1971, etc.), a fine script by Frank Pierson (whose credits include Cool Hand Luke 1967, Dog Day Afternoon 1975, A Star Is Born 1976, etc.), and an experienced, talented and well-directed cast headed by Harrison Ford, Brian Dennehy, Raul Julia, Bonnie Bedelia, Greta Scacchi and Paul Winfield.
Ford plays Rusty Sabich, a prosecutor compromised by his sexual obsession with a fellow prosecutor, Caroline Polhemus (Scacchi) who is found murdered as the film opens. We see her in flashback as a conniving mantrap who uses her wiles to further her career. Sabich is assigned to the case by his boss, Raymond Horgan (Dennehy) who is up for reelection. Sabich would like to recuse himself but Horgan demands that he take the case and get the perp "yesterday" otherwise they will all be out a job because he will lose the election. Bedelia, looking particularly beguiling, plays Sabich's sexually frustrated and deeply hurt wife, Barbara.
When the election is lost the new prosecutors arrest Sabich and charge him with murder. He is defended by the very smooth Raul Julia who plays defense attorney Sandy Stern. Paul Winfield, in a somewhat flamboyant style, plays Judge Larren Lyttle.
Because Scott Turow knows the way the law works in practice as well as in theory, he having been a lawyer before he became a best-selling writer, we are treated to wood paneled intrigues and courtroom theatrics that have the unmistakable feel of authenticity. The dialogue is veracious and the character cross-currents vividly real. Ford gives what I think is one of his best performances as a man tormented by his infidelity and caught in a vise of circumstance largely stemming from that infidelity. Dennehy is a big-mouthed and big-headed politician in the familiar Windy City style. Raul Julia's Sandy Stern is cosmopolitan and brilliant, cynical and slick, a kind of Latin Johnny Cochran. Bedelia, whom I recall best as Shirley Muldowney in Heart Like a Wheel (1983) manages a delicate (and slightly unbelievable) persona with just the right amount of forbearance so that when the surprise ending comes we almost believe it.
I say "almost," but you might want to judge for yourself.
See this for Harrison Ford who plays a foolish and morally compromised man with just the sort of right stuff and disarming vulnerability we've come to expect from one of Hollywood's most popular leading men.
(Note: Over 500 of my movie reviews are now available in my book "Cut to the Chaise Lounge or I Can't Believe I Swallowed the Remote!" Get it at Amazon!)
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