A retired detective accepts a simple task, unaware that it will tear open old, forgotten, but deadly wounds.


Robert Benton





Cast overview, first billed only:
Paul Newman ... Harry Ross
Susan Sarandon ... Catherine Ames
Gene Hackman ... Jack Ames
Reese Witherspoon ... Mel Ames
Stockard Channing ... Lt. Verna Hollander
James Garner ... Raymond Hope
Giancarlo Esposito ... Reuben Escobar
Liev Schreiber ... Jeff Willis
Margo Martindale ... Gloria Lamar
John Spencer ... Capt. Phil Egan
M. Emmet Walsh ... Lester Ivar
Peter Gregory ... Verna's Partner
Rene Mujica ... Mexican Bartender
Jason Clarke ... Young Cop #1
Patrick Malone ... Younger Cop (as Patrick Y. Malone)


Retired ex-cop and private detective Harry Ross (Paul Newman), who lives with rich actor Jack Ames (Gene Hackman), who is dying from cancer and his actress wife Catherine (Susan Sarandon) gets mixed up in murder when he is asked to deliver blackmail money. He walks into a twenty-year-old case involving the mysterious disappearance of Catherine's former husband. Raymond Hope (James Garner) is another ex-cop who also does occasional errands for the couple. Written by John Sacksteder <jsackste@bellsouth.net>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


Some people can buy their way out of anything. Except the past.

Motion Picture Rating (MPAA)

Rated R for violence, language and some sexuality | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

View content advisory »

Did You Know?


This was the only movie in which Paul Newman, James Garner, and Gene Hackman appeared together. See more »


When Jack plays solitaire near the end of the film, the number of cards dealt face up decreases each time the camera returns to him in three quick cuts and the cards have disappeared. See more »


Catherine: I can't help but notice how...familiar you've become with everything in this house.
Harry: You know what I think? (Dumping out drink) I think you're right.
See more »


Referenced in Magic Time for Piotr (1998) See more »


P.M. Country Blues
Written by Peter Matz
See more »

User Reviews

Interesting script, despite obvious flaws
15 December 2001 | by JuguAbrahamSee all my reviews

Most critics wrote off the film because of the poor script and the lackluster direction. Yes, it is true that an average viewer should be able to spot the villain, well before the ex-cop and ex-private investigator does so in the film by comparing life-styles. But that is what young audiences will look for in the movie. What I liked about the script were the subtle dialogues ranging from Samuel Johnson misquotes to acerbic one-liners that developed each of the characters slowly. Take the misty-eyed Lt. Verna (Stockard Channing) greeting Ross as an old acquaintance and then closing the dialogue with the icy "Cuff him!" to the arresting officers. You have an extra-ordinary script here and everywhere in the film.

This film is not action-packed; it is heavy on dialogue requiring a mature mind to take in the clever character buildup. Sarandon's character, in particular, was well developed leading to a charming finale.

Benton never appealed to me as a great director; nonetheless this film's strength lies in his script (co-scripted by Russo), a thoroughly delightful cast ensemble, and a notable camerawork by Sobocinsky.

Finally, I thought the film's name was a wonderful and appropriate selection.

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Release Date:

6 March 1998 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

The Magic Hour See more »


Box Office


$37,000,000 (estimated)

Opening Weekend USA:

$5,866,411, 8 March 1998

Gross USA:


Cumulative Worldwide Gross:

See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

Dolby Digital



Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
See full technical specs »

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