Honest and hard-working Texas rancher Homer Bannon has a conflict with his unscrupulous, selfish, arrogant and egotistical son Hud, who sank into alcoholism after accidentally killing his brother in a car crash.
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
Suppose you picked up this morning's newspaper and your life was a front page headline... And everything they said was accurate... But none of it was true. 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 »
According to writer Kurt Luedtke in the DVD special feature The Story Behind Absence of Malice (2004), the film's story was inspired by the media law legal case of Times v Sullivan [i.e. The New York Times Co. v. Sullivan, 376 U.S. 254 (1964)]. Luedtke summarized this case by saying that American libel laws, due to this case precedent, indicate that truth is not always necessary to journalism in situations involving public figures. As such, a newspaper can effectively make a bad mistake and hurt a public figure and the latter cannot always collect damages for it. See more »
As Gallagher throws a newspaper on the table in the conference room, the position of one book relative to the other changes. See more »
James A. Wells, Assistant U.S. Attorney General:
Now we'll talk all day if you want to. But, come sundown, there's gonna be two things true that ain't true now. One is that the United States Department of Justice is goin' to know what in the good Christ - e'scuse me, Angie - is goin' on around here. And the other's I'm gonna have somebody's ass in muh briefcase.
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This movie looks to have all the elements of a classic but somehow falls short. Unscrupulous prosecutor dupes reporter Field into creating (false) impression that businessman Newman was involved in a murder, in the hope that will somehow help his investigation. The lie has unexpected and tragic consequences, after which Newman turns the tables. Field is fine as liberated yet vulnerable thirty-something, Newman is also good if a little obscure in a difficult role; but Brimley as Asst US Attorney steals the show when he finally blows the whistle on everyone. Brimley's short time in this movie really is classic and Oscar-quality. The overall problem here is a little too much soapbox and not enough real emotion from nearly everyone.
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