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A Stranger Among Us (1992)

 -  Crime | Drama | Romance  -  17 July 1992 (USA)
5.7
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Ratings: 5.7/10 from 2,491 users  
Reviews: 35 user | 19 critic

Detective Emily Eden is a tough New York City cop forced to go undercover to solve a puzzling murder. Her search for the truth takes her into a secret world of unwritten law and unspoken ... See full summary »

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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
...
...
Levine
...
Mara
Lee Richardson ...
Rebbe
...
...
Nick
...
Ariel
...
Lt. Oliver
Burtt Harris ...
Emily's Father
...
Tony Baldessari
Chris Latta ...
Chris Baldessari (as Chris Collins)
...
Yaakov Klausman
Ro'ee Levi ...
Mendel
David Rosenbaum ...
Mr. Klausman
Ruth Vool ...
Mrs. Klausman
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Storyline

Detective Emily Eden is a tough New York City cop forced to go undercover to solve a puzzling murder. Her search for the truth takes her into a secret world of unwritten law and unspoken power, a world where the only way out is deeper in! Written by Anonymous

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Taglines:

In a world of unseen danger and unspoken passion, lies a mystery one woman is determined to solve. See more »

Genres:

Crime | Drama | Romance

Motion Picture Rating (MPAA)

Rated PG-13 for language and violence | See all certifications »
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Details

Country:

Language:

| |

Release Date:

17 July 1992 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Close to Eden  »

Box Office

Gross:

$12,282,994 (USA)
 »

Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

Color:

Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
See  »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

James Gandolfini's film/television debut. See more »

Goofs

The Ariel character has a neatly trimmed and partially shaved beard, while explaining payes (side curls). Ultra-Orthodox Jews do not shave any part of their beard or neck. See more »

Quotes

Shayna: It's in the Kabbalah. Women understand the world better than men do. And that is why they weep more often.
See more »

Connections

Referenced in Will & Grace: Star-Spangled Banter (2001) See more »

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User Reviews

 
Sidney, we expect better from you
23 May 2004 | by (Oklahoma) – See all my reviews

(SPOILERS) Earlier reviewers have focused on this film as a rip-off of 'Witness.' But let's take it on its own terms.

A Chasidic diamond dealer, Yaakov Klausman, is reported missing. A cynical, assertive NYC cop, Emily (Melanie Griffith), is assigned to investigate. Right away it's annoying: The 'Jewish' scenes are filmed in deep, reverential browns, through diffusion filters that make candles glow as in some Christian epic. The 'Gentile' scenes have flat, harsh blues and yellows. Emily's freewheeling, liberated attitude startles the Chasidim, who are portrayed as gentle, profound, contemplative and unworldly. In fact, whatever Chasidim are like among themselves, with non-Chasidim they can be notoriously brash, abrasive, rejecting, withdrawn, suspicious, and clannish. Emily sees a bloodstain on the drop ceiling in the diamond store that everyone else has conveniently missed. Oops! There is Yaakov's corpse, crammed into the crawl space. (I guess Chasidic corpses don't start to smell after a couple of days like the rest of us.) Emily then decides she must live among the Chasidim to learn about their community, to prevent further murders, because the murder looked like an inside job, a possibility considered unthinkable by the Jews. Both the Chasidim and her bosses readily accept this implausible idea because it's the only way to advance the plot. The Rebbe (the patriarch and leader of this Chasidic community) and his two adopted adult children take Emily into their home and view her in a generous, accepting light. Oops again: These are Chasidim, who would be most likely to view her with utter disdain. There are several conversations between Emily that provide necessary exposition, in which the Rebbe comes across as a kindly, understanding old man. In fact, he would be more likely not to speak to her at all because she is a woman not related to him! And Emily's boss doesn't seem too bright to accept her plan so uncritically and also to form a small team to back her up!

The film then takes Emily on a voyage of discovery of Chasidism. There are wonderful images of Chasidic life, but again, it stretches credulity to think that an outsider would be permitted to see them, even if she is an undercover cop working on a murder. This part feels like weeks, but surprise, it's only a few days. Emily makes friends with the Rebbe's daughter Leah, played by (the very Italian) Mia Sara (obviously owing to the scarcity of Jewish actresses in America). Of course, romance rears its head in the person of Leah's brother Ariel, played by Eric Thal. Griffith is eight years older than Thal and looks it, which is distracting. Emily and Ariel are powerfully attracted to one another, but never for a moment is their attraction believable, either as characters or actors. Ariel was Yaakov's best friend, a brilliant scholar who is being groomed as the Rebbe's successor, and also the future bridegroom in a just-arranged marriage to the daughter of a rabbi in Paris. Emily's reacts with incredible naiveté about arranged marriages. No one is that ignorant. She also meets Mara (Tracy Pollan), Yaakov's fiancée, who tells Emily about her (Mara's) sordid past and how Yaakov found her, took her in, and later proposed to her. Here are two more implausibles: That Yaakov would do this at all with an outsider, and that Emily is transformed by her exposure to the Chasidim into a more reserved, more profound soul in a matter of days.

In the daytime, Emily works undercover in the diamond store where Yaakov was murdered. Suspicion falls on two stereotypical Italian mobsters from the Baldessari family (one is James Gandolfini with hair). They show up a few days after Emily goes undercover and try to force a protection racket on the store. The Jews are given a week to decide. Of course, it's all been caught on film and tape. When the mobsters come back, they are arrested for extortion and conspiracy; and when one of Yaakov's diamond bags is discovered in Baldessari's coat, for suspicion of murder. The mobsters make a break for it, a violent chase sequence ensues, and Emily single-handedly takes them out. Just before he dies, Baldessari tells Emily that they didn't kill Yaakov. Emily's cover is blown after the very public chase, and the case is supposedly closed. But, in a too-neat little scene, Emily realizes that the only plausible suspect is Mara. She is correct, the climactic confrontation ensues, and Ariel winds up shooting Mara to save Leah's life. (Right.) As an anticlimax, we meet Ariel's betrothed, played by the 24-year-old Rena Sofer. We are distracted by her beauty and then distracted from that by her ludicrously bogus French accent.

Reviewers of 'Witness,' which with this film is most often contrasted, have pointed out the numerous goofs in that film, details that make those familiar with Pennsylvania Dutch culture howl. Same here: While this film contains fascinating, evocative scenes of Chasidic life that most people would never see in person, it is an inferior film that is full of improbable plot elements, cultural blunders, characters who are mostly mere sketches, and mostly pedestrian cinematography. As a Jew, Sidney Lumet should have been more sensitive to how badly this script trampled on accuracy in the name of cinema. We expect better from the director who gave us Serpico, Dog Day Afternoon, Network and Prince of the City.


9 of 17 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

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