Cause of Death (2001) Poster

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Surprisingly effective--definitely worth a rental
NewYorkLondonParisMunich8 October 2000
This movie was released straight-to-video here in Bulgaria. However, "Cause of Death" turns out to be a surprisingly entertaining whodunit. It has a couple of major flaws in the story, but nothing so serious as to prevent me from recommending it as a weeknight rental.

Patrick Bergin is the prosecutor leading the case against Joan Severance, who's accused of the brutal shotgun murder of her husband, a corrupt businessman. But things get complicated, and Bergin starts to develop some sympathies toward the defendant's story, and soon Severance is responding. Did she or didn't she commit the murder, and will he or won't he cross the line between the prosecution and the defense?

I mentioned a couple of major flaws. One is that it takes too long to explain an episode from Bergin's past that makes him especially cautious in the case against Severance. The viewer is left to wonder for about 70 of the film's 90 minutes what all of the references to the "Gennaro case" mean, and whether they explain Bergin's bizarre decisions. That's the other major flaw: even when the "Gennaro case" is explained, there's still no rational explanation for the ridiculous choices Bergin's character makes. There are some things you can and can't do when you work in the prosecutor's office. Bergin breaks the rules in such a careless and self-destructive way as to be implausible.

But if you can be patient and wait for the "Gennaro case explanation, and you try not to think about whether Bergin's character makes realistic decisions, "Cause of Death" is a pretty good thriller. Joan Severance (whom I recall fondly from TV's "Wiseguy," as Susan Profitt, the sister of Kevin Spacey's Mel Profitt) is aging gracefully--I thank the filmmakers for including a lingerie scene.

Maxim Roy plays Bergin's long-suffering co-prosecutor, who has a crush on him. She has an electric presence, stealing every scene in which she appeared (okay, there's a badly-written polygraph scene she limps through, but she does her best with some terrible lines). I'd never seen her, but I'll have to remind myself to keep an eye out for anything else she appears in.

Although Michael Ironside receives top billing on the video box, he hardly has any screen time. Maybe in a few years, around 2004-5, after Maxim Roy is a well-known screen presence, "Cause of Death" can be re-released with her name in Ironside's place. Hey, I can hope, right?
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Okay, here's my take on it
olliemankz17 October 2014
Movies like this make me wish I had not misspent my youth but had gotten a law degree among other constructive things. But never mind that I couldn't be sure if some of the courtroom goings-on were kosher ... one move will make you ask yourself if you have ever seen it before ... there was enough going on in the rest of the plot, you needed a score card. I'm afraid I came up woefully short in understanding some of the ins and outs particularly in the area of campaign contributions.

But I will give this Patrick Bergin thriller very good marks, better than Suspicious Minds which, despite its flaws, I liked, too; yes, Virginia, there was another Patrick Bergin mystery made. Despite having made an impact as Julia Roberts's implacable husband in Sleeping With the Enemy, in these detective stories with Bergin as the hero he is quiet and reasonable, qualities I told Mike Connors whom I once spied in a restaurant and who had played TV's Mannix years ago were admirable in his character. Yes, Connors said, they don't write 'em that way anymore. I guess Hawaii 5-0's Jack Lord, The Fugitive's David Janssen and Peter Gunn's Craig Stevens to name a few filled that sort of bill and are much to have been appreciated.

Cause of Death was made in the early 2000's probably before 9-11 but it has a bit of the feel of the 80's, although I was surprised in a way to see SUV's, laptops and cell phones so much in use; the budget was pretty good on this one, also witness the quality of the direction and the production values, not to mention the script. Re the 80's though. some skirts seemed too short for professional situations; I know I'm not alone in wondering about this because at least one other reviewer here mentioned that. At least the bodices weren't low-cut and sleeveless, even sometimes strappy, as we are supposed to believe by the various CSI's forensic technicians are allowed to sport.

In this one, Bergin is an assistant state's attorney with a scandal in his recent past who is trying to parse out the high-profile murder of the mayor's somewhat shady cousin. The victim's wife is the accused. Boy, I got a lesson from Joan Severance in how to wrap a man such as Taylor Lewis, played by Bergin, around your little finger. Of course, it helps when you're as beautiful as she is. Somehow I felt Joan was an actress from the distant past and so looked amazing as a 35-year-old. But it's probably just her somewhat dated name. Classic names are making a comeback anyway. And she has cheekbones.

One thing I kind of liked is that we never meet the mayor, who is herself a woman; we don't really need to and I suppose she just would have confused the roster of characters. There are enough others to keep you busy, including a lovely black man unaccountably named Carmine DeLuca; perhaps he's in witness protection except that rather than give him a white bread name they decided to hide him in plain sight with a moniker no one would expect. Lol. But back to the mayor. Given how things turn out, I almost wish we had met her. There is an interesting subplot in which Bergin and his pretty sidekick this time named Missy have a boss who throws big words all over the place, sometimes wrongly, a bit to Lewis's annoyance. I'm not quite sure why that's in there except possibly to prove that Lewis is, again, more reasoned and intelligent, or give the writer and those of us in the audience who care, who include me, a chance to skewer someone with pompous rhetoric; someone who defames the English language deserves the worst. Ooh, wait, I just did it ... probably shouldn't throw stones. The subplot is not laugh-out-loud funny and it's sort of a red herring and yet it didn't bother me as being out of place.

This was a very professionally done movie down to the evocation of a smell, that of garbage due to a garbage strike which somehow has to do with the victim buying it. Had there been just a little more finesse with some of the plot points which, truth to tell, were so well laid out their connections almost took care of themselves, this might have been more memorable, and no doubt is a classic in its class. I do not have the same complaint about the end that I had with that other Bergin thriller I have seen so far and am referencing here, Suspicious Minds, in which you did not see the ending coming because you had no clues to point you to it. In Cause of Death I did not see the solution coming but it was a classic one and I was left with the admiring reaction, "Boy, I missed that"; the script must have been doing a great job of redirection. My biggest complaint is that Bergin had another of what seem to be for him obligatory once-a- thriller-in-which-he-is-the-hero sex scenes; he's an imposing mope but I'd sorta rather keep that between him and his future wife. But some ladies might swoon. So sorry. Meow.
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skip it
blanche-223 February 2014
Patrick Bergin, Michael Ironside, Maxim Roy, and Joan Severance star in "Cause of Death," a film from 2001.

The main reason I didn't like this film is the lousy acting.

When the mayor's cousin is murdered, a deputy DA (Bergin) whose reputation has suffered in a previous case is assigned to investigate the murder. The cousin's wife is the beautiful, sexy, body to die for Joan Severance, so we can see what's coming. Meanwhile, his partner (Roy) doesn't like the way he's handling the case and seems jealous of the wife, who is the obvious suspect.

I just couldn't get into this. It looked cheap and some of the acting was horrendous.

Left me cold.
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No baltimore, no pants!
Sack-318 March 2003
This movie plays like the TV show Law & Order without the dramatic scene changes -- and just a little longer. The whodunit part holds together surprisingly well, but the acting is suspect. So, is the location. The movie was made and shot in Canada. So, why was it "set" in Baltimore? Since they clearly aren't in Baltimore, they do silly small-budget things like have bad signs that say "Baltimore Court House" and refer to Baltimore street names on which they clearly aren't. Also, the assistant prosecutor Maxim (nice name) is constantly wearing mid-length jackets over mini-skirts making it look like she's some kind of flasher. The skirts are too short -- this must have been shot in the Ally McBeal era of woman lawyer looks.
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A good story that comes up lacking.
Michael O'Keefe9 January 2012
Warning: Spoilers
The political life of Baltimore's mayor may have just got more complicated. His well-healed cousin is brutally murdered. Is it because of suspected mob connections or just an act of passion? The mayor wants the whole situation flossed over and demands the District Attorney's office to cover-up and do favorable damage control. Deputy D.A. Taylor Lewis(Patrick Bergin)happens to be about the only one who doesn't think it is an open-and-shut, slam dunk case. He has nagging memories of a previous wrongful conviction; and goes against the mayor and his boss and pursues the investigation without blinders and hands tied behind his back. It is obvious to everyone that the victim's beautiful wife Angela(Joan Severance)is the only suspect. After all, her previous wealthy husband died under suspicious circumstances. In spite of finding an attraction to her; Lewis goes to the bitter end in his investigation and brings down many people in high places. A good part of the acting is overboard and the movie leaves you thinking you just wasted your time with what amounts to be a watered down made-for-TV project. Others in the cast: Maxim Roy, Michael Rudder, Eugene Clark and Michael Ironside.
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