Another day, another great nineties thriller. Perfectly balanced, Presumed Innocent successfully blends courtroom proceedings with a murder investigation, political machinations, and fates of ordinary people. It’s based on a novel of the same name written by Scott Turow and part of a wave of similar early nineties thrillers. Shattered is one of them, also starring the dashing Great Scacchi. Sleeping With The Enemy, Malice, and Guilty as Sin are other notable examples. In the movie we’re talking about today, we will be following Rusty Sabich, a prosecutor who finds himself in a difficult position when one of his coworkers is brutally murdered.
Presumed Innocent is one of those murder mystery movies that accidentally give away the killer early on in the story. If you’re a fan of these movies, I’m sure that a single sentence is going to be enough for you to figure out who the killer is. Despite this, you’ll never be sure what’s going on and who really did it until the very end. Additionally, Presumed Innocent weaves an intriguing web of corruption, lies, and sex that almost overshadows the main story. And on top of it all, we have the gripping courtroom proceedings.
So, this is a complete package that’s going to make a bit longish running time of just over two hours feel much shorter. The cast is also one of the reasons for that. Harrison Ford’s subdued performance was no match for Greta Scacchi who nailed every second of her screen time. John Spencer was also excellent looking like Max Payne nearing retirement along with dependable Brian Dennehy. Everyone was basically great. Something that’s very important in any character-driven thriller and exemplified by Raul Julia’s magnetic performance. The script is poignant and well-written without fluff. This means that we will be moving from one good scene to another, without almost any downtime.
The turbulent times for the lead prosecutor Rusty Sabich are about to get even more turbulent. His boss, district attorney Raymond Horgan, just informed him that one of their own has been murdered. Carolyn Polhemus’s skills in the courtroom were matched only by her stunning looks and ambition. The murder happened just before the end of the elections which could see both Horgan and Sabich out of their jobs. So, Sabich must solve this murder before that date and find out why is this happening right now.
You might go so far as to call Presumed Innocent a complete thriller. It touches upon all aspects of the criminal justice system intelligently while simultaneously presenting how different personalities interact with it. The characters are well-developed, flawed, and, more importantly realistic. You feel like you’re getting an insider’s view into a world that fascinated viewers for several centuries. Today, that world is full of television shows like Law and Order, with just a few good movies coming out each year. Actually, I do not recall any recent movies similar to these titans of the eighties and nineties.
At this point in time, they feel more like movie novels than regular movies. They feature a certain flair and an atmosphere that slowly disappeared in the world of cinema. Another good example are erotic thrillers which are now almost completely extinct. Speaking of that, there won’t be almost any nudity here. However, that single scene with stunningly beautiful Greta Scacchi and Harrison Ford was enough for me. Finally, if you’re looking for movies like Presumed Innocent, check out Jagged Edge and Frantic, also starring Harrison Ford.
Director: Alan J. Pakula
Writers: Scott Turow, Frank Pierson, Alan J. Pakula
Cast: Harrison Ford, Brian Dennehy, Greta Scacchi, Bonnie Bedelia, Raul Julia, John Spencer
Fun Facts: During the sex scene between Scacchi and Ford, camera revealed more than Scacchi was expecting.