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Absence of Malice (1981)

Trailer
2:03 | Trailer
When a prosecutor leaks a false story that a liquor warehouse owner is involved in the murder of a union head, the man's life begins to unravel.

Director:

Sydney Pollack

Writer:

Kurt Luedtke
Nominated for 3 Oscars. Another 3 wins & 5 nominations. See more awards »

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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
Paul Newman ... Gallagher
Sally Field ... Megan
Bob Balaban ... Rosen
Melinda Dillon ... Teresa
Luther Adler ... Malderone
Barry Primus ... Waddell
Josef Sommer ... McAdam
John Harkins ... Davidek
Don Hood ... Quinn
Wilford Brimley ... Wells
Arnie Ross Arnie Ross ... Eddie Frost
Phanie Napoli Phanie Napoli ... Nickie (as Anna Marie Napoles)
Shelley Spurlock Shelley Spurlock ... Sarah Wylie
Shawn McAllister ... Hood 1
Joe Petrullo Joe Petrullo ... Hood 2
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Storyline

Mike Gallagher is a Miami liquor wholesaler whose deceased father was a local mobster. The FBI organized crime task force have no evidence that he's involved with the mob but decide to pressure him into perhaps revealing something - anything - about a murder they're sure was a mob hit. They let Megan Carter, a naive but well-meaning journalist, know he is being investigated and Gallagher's name is soon all over the newspaper. Gallagher has an iron-clad alibi for when the murder occurred but won't reveal it to protect his fragile friend Teresa. When Carter publishes her story, tragedy ensues. Needing to make amends, Carter tells Gallagher the source of the first story about him and he sets out to teach the FBI and the Federal Attorney a lesson. Written by garykmcd

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis

Taglines:

The D.A., Feds and the police set her up to write the story that explodes his world. Now he's going to write the book on getting even. See more »


Certificate:

PG | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

View content advisory »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

The only ever cinema movie collaboration of actor Paul Newman and director Sydney Pollack. See more »

Goofs

Other date continuity errors: After Meghan says that the year is 1981 and Michael prints a cashier's check dated Dec. 11, 1980, Meghan gives him the clipping announcing that the investigation is off; the clipping is dated November 22, 1980. Still later Michael gets another cashier's check dated December 16. See more »

Quotes

Wells: [to reporter] Before we go any further, I want to say something to you: You know and I know that we can't tell you what to print, or what not to. We *hope* the press will act responsibly. But when you *don't,* there ain't a lot we can do about it.
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Connections

Featured in The Story Behind Absence of Malice (2004) See more »

User Reviews

 
Requiem for two heavyweights...
3 October 2008 | by LejinkSee all my reviews

I taped this lauded 80's movie months ago and prompted by the recent death of Paul Newman, finally made time to watch it, only realising as I did so that its director too, Sydney Pollack, has also lately taken his last bow. The film is about the corrupting power of trial by newspaper to damage and sometimes destroy innocent lives and in this particular case of one man's courage and ingenuity in fighting back, even for what seems in the end a Pyrrhic victory against his malefactors. Pollack's favoured ouevre certainly seemed to be contemporary thrillers, often positing a faceless establishment body, personified by dehumanised no-names and their usually destructive oppression of innocent individuals. Although dated by things like contemporary fashions and background music, (no-one surely can defend this era for its style and music!) these films (and there were loads of them in the mid 70's and early 80's - "All the President's Men", "Dog Day Afternoon", "The Verdict", to name but a few, often directed by the two Sydneys, Pollack and Lumet, and peopled by acting heavyweights like Pacino, Redford, Newman, Winger and Fonda) represent a largely neglected sub-genre of quality movie-making rarely seen today. The film at hand here, "Absence of Malice" occasionally lacks narrative drive and suspense but makes up for that with everyday realism, for example drawing in themes on disparate subjects like abortion and trade-union relations. With Pollack's usual high-standard cinematography, particularly his naturally-lit interiors and indeed exteriors, you always feel that this fictional story could actually be happening here and now. It's helped by good dialogue and the skills of the ensemble acting cast. Newman walks away with the acting plaudits, effortlessly drawing the viewer's sympathy and admiration although I was very impressed by Melinda Dillon's underplaying of her part as Newman's "close personal friend", caught in the cross-fire and also Wilford Brimley's cameo as the State Department official who effectively acts as judge and jury at the mini-courtroom climax. Sally Field, who was briefly, at this time, the it-girl for modern-day character parts, lacks some heft alongside the predominantly male cast and at times plays the part more like Jean Arthur than Faye Dunaway. You can also see her acting at key points, particularly in the scene when Newman loses his temper and almost assaults her. Despite a brief (perhaps unnecessary) romantic liaison between the two leads, the film ends satisfyingly with an enigmatic shot of Newman sailing (literally) into the sunset leaving a chastened Field behind. In conclusion then, an intelligent, thought-provoking, well-structured and plotted movie, its main theme still relevant today in tabloid-land.


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Frequently Asked Questions

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Details

Country:

USA

Language:

English | Spanish

Release Date:

18 December 1981 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Absence of Malice See more »

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Box Office

Budget:

$12,000,000 (estimated)

Opening Weekend USA:

$97,667, 22 November 1981

Gross USA:

$40,716,963

Cumulative Worldwide Gross:

$40,716,963
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Company Credits

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Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

Mono

Color:

Color

Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
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