If you’re looking for a gripping and suspenseful thriller look no further than Under Suspicion. Featuring an all-star cast, an excellent script, and an intense atmosphere, it’s one of those movies you can watch anytime. I played it late last night thinking that I would just watch the first half of it. However, once you play it, you simply cannot stop it. The story unfolds in real-time as we follow Captain Victor Benezet interrogating wealthy lawyer Henry Hearst in connection with two murders. And I have to note that I’ve seen this movie at least twice before but I keep coming back to it.
The performances are simply stellar. Just look at the cast of Under Suspicion: Morgan Freeman, Gene Hackman, and Monica motherfucking Bellucci! What more to want from a movie? Perhaps young Thomas Jane fresh off the set of Deep Blue Sea? You’ve got it, buddy. Of course, Gene Hackman steals the show here in one of his best roles ever. And I say that fully knowing that his filmography is almost unmatched. Fun fact, he was seventy years old here and a force of fucking nature. Freeman gave a more subdued performance, just what the role called for, leaving all the air in the room to be sucked up by Hackman. Fucking brilliant.
Is there anything better than great actors working a great script under great direction? I also loved the Puerto Rican setting. It was lively and exotic, creating this glorious chaos of life outside the police station. The police station which now served as a temporary prison for a rich asshole being grilled, Mr. Hearst. The juxtaposition of the two was really juicy, highlighting the emotional rollercoaster everyone was going through. Now, the pacing is just a tad bit slower but I think that the suspense in the atmosphere along with the mystery surrounding the case makes up for that and then some. After all, this movie is based on a novel written by John Wainwright.
Tonight is a special night for wealthy tax attorney Henry Hearst. He’s one of the stars at an exclusive fundraising party in San Juan, Puerto Rico. However, before he gives his speech, an old friend, Police Captian Benezet asked him to come down to the station and give a statement. Two young girls have been murdered and Hearst actually found the last one. It appears this is going to be a long night for both of these men.
Although the main story in Under Suspicion revolves around this gripping interrogation, there are a lot of subplots here. As the questioning continues we delve deeper not only into marital relations but also into the economy, corruption, and our society in general. The script is so good that a couple of sentences can break a concept or a theme wide open. Expose hypocrisy or ask an awkward question that we all know the answer to. Know the answer but cannot admit or say it out loud.
Towards the end, Hackman has a spellbinding monologue about why older men prefer younger women. It’s raw, honest, at times disgusting, and I think it paints an accurate picture of what most of the population thinks. The way he delivers though is just pure gold despite the despicable nature of the subject matter. I feel I can spend hours just thinking and exploring this one theme and there are quite a few of those here. And most of them are not so yucky.
Finally, I want to add that there’s a French adaptation of Wainwright’s novel that I haven’t seen yet. Garde à Vue came out in 1981 and it stars Lino Ventura, Michel Serrault, and Romy Schneider so it can’t be bad. And speaking of French single-location thrillers, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention 1994’s A Pure Formality which feels very similar to Under Suspicion. This is an equally gripping single-location movie albeit more minimalist starring Gérard Depardieu and Roman Polanski. So, you might want to check it out.
Director: Stephen Hopkins
Writers: John Wainwright, Claude Miller, Jean Herman
Cast: Morgan Freeman, Gene Hackman, Thomas Jane, Monica Bellucci, Miguel Ángel Suárez
Fun Facts: Morgan Freeman and Gene Hackman previously appeared in Unforgiven.