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Dan the Man's Movie Reviews

All my aimless thoughts, ideas, and ramblings, all packed into one site!

Presumed Innocent (1990)


Come on Indy! Don’t get caught with your Willy!

Presumed Innocent is about anti-heroic lawyer Rozat “Rusty” Sabich (Harrison Ford), a Kindle County prosecutor and presumptive heir to the Prosecuting Attorney’s office currently occupied by Raymond Horgan (Brian Dennehy). When Rusty’s attractive colleague Carolyn Polhemus (Greta Scacchi) turns up murdered, the evidence points to Rusty, despite his being married with children and the type of dude that would never, ever pull a deadly-stunt like that off. However, is there more going on than he thinks that may point fingers to others out there. Even the people he loves and works with? Only time will tell until everything is revealed.

Old-school mystery thrillers are always my favorite to watch, and for some odd reason, I always get the urge to watch them during the summer time. Don’t know why that’s always been a thing for me. Maybe it’s the weather, maybe it’s the fact that every movie in the summer that’s released or viewed, are usually dumb as hell and require barely any thought, or maybe it’s just a thing I do. I don’t know, maybe it’s as simple as that. No further thinking required.

All of the credit for this film has to go to director Alan J. Pakula for bringing a very moody and tense atmosphere to this flick because it honestly gave me a feeling that I couldn’t trust anybody in this story. It’s a very interesting “whodunit” that keeps you guessing the whole time, even when you think you got it all under control. Usually when courtroom scenes show up, they usually spell-out more hints and clues that make the wider-picture seem so much more obvious, but here, Pakula really seemed to be pulling out the rug right from underneath us, and best of all: he seemed to be enjoying it. That’s what I like in my old-school, mystery-thrillers and watching this one was nowhere near being different.

With a mug like that, yup, he's totally giving himself away.

With a mug like that, he’s totally giving himself away.

But the most important aspect of this story that made it work was the courtroom scenes themselves, some of which; are very smart and well-written. There are plenty of courtroom drama’s out there like A Few Good Men and A Time to Kill that have great and snappy dialogue to get you riled up and excited, but it’s also dialogue that feels very “staged”, which, I guess is the point considering they’re movies and all but it gives you this feel that maybe these certain types of people wouldn’t talk like this, had they actually been put into situations like this. Here, a lot of the courtroom dialogue feels very realistic and everybody that either defends their own case, questioning someone, or objects, all seem like real people actually talking. I know this is a weird compliment to give this flick but it’s just a very rare thing to see a courtroom flick just shoot it straight, without trying to throw out any lines like “You can’t handle the truth!”. Even though, I do have to say that 20 years later, that whole scene/line is still pretty epic.

Problem is, after all of this build-up, all of this suspense, and all of this smart-ass questioning going on in the courtroom, the film still disappoints. BIG TIME. I don’t want to give anything away as to what happens in the end, or even what the end is all about but it features a huge twist on the story and not only makes you think differently about what you just saw but also, all of the characters themselves. This all sounds cool and nifty, but it’s very weird how they approach this ending by having an explanation told in a way that would remind you of a psychotic horror movie character. I knew by the way this story was, there was going to be a big twist in the end, but I didn’t know it was going to be handled in such a lame and anticlimactic way. I’m tempted to throw my whole life away and spill the beans, but I still want to keep my credibility. It’s stupid though. Enough said.

Even though Harrison Ford hasn’t had the best track-record in recent years (even though he was awesome in 42), you still got to give it to the guy because he’s able to pull off the action roles like Indiana Jones or Han Solo, but also able to breakaway from them and pull off some dramatic, regular-guy roles as well. Ford is great here as Rusty showing a lot of emotional strain just in the way he looks and way he sounds, but also distances himself away from the audience and makes you think twice about his character as to whether or not he’s involved with the murder he’s investigating. Actually, this was a pretty cool feature but there comes a point in the film where Rusty eventually does get accused of murdering this gal, and shows barely little or no emotions about it. I get it, the film is trying to make us question whether or not he’s involved with the actual murder, but it just didn’t come off as real considering the guys normal and somewhat happy life is in danger. Still, Ford can rock these roles out very well and he’s no different here.

"Hmm...I guess I'm going to be a dick today too."

“Hmm…I guess I’m going to be a dick today too.”

The rest of the cast is full of a bunch of familiar faces that are sure to make you happy when they pop-up on screen. Raul Julia is a lot of fun to watch as Rusty’s lawyer, who always seems to have a trick up his sleeve and brings a lot of humor and charm to the courtroom scenes, even when they seem to get uber serious; Brian Dennehy is playing one of his usual nasty and corrupt characters here as Rusty’s morally compromised boss; and Greta Scacchi has a couple of good scenes as our murdered lady-friend, Carolyn Polhemus, and it’s pretty easy to see why so many dudes would fall for her, especially a guy like Ford. There’s also plenty of other people to see here too, but I won’t spoil them for you. Just check it out yourself and see how many faces you can make to names. Movies like this are fun like that. Most of the time at least.

Consensus: The tension, the mystery, the mood, the atmosphere, and the acting seemed to all come together for Presumed Innocent by one point to where it was really kicking ass in a way I wasn’t expecting, but because of it’s out-of-nowhere, nutty-twist at the end, major points had to be taken away. But the build-up is still awesome, so expect that.

7.5 / 10 = Rental!!

"Yeah, we're fucked."

“Yeah, we’re fucked.”

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14 responses to “Presumed Innocent (1990)

  1. Nick Powell May 13, 2013 at 5:30 am

    I’ve never seen this. Always wanted to given the cast, but it got completely buried with everything else in the early 90s lol. I’ll check it out sometime!

  2. Zoë May 13, 2013 at 10:01 am

    Hmmmm, also never seen this one. Looks worth checking out though!

  3. reykissna May 13, 2013 at 1:07 pm

    I like mysteries and dramas, so this should be a good watch. Plus, old time movies always give you a nice feeling.

  4. Stephanie May 13, 2013 at 3:29 pm

    Great review, Dan! I have an affinity for old school mystery thrillers too, and I remember this one as being pretty good, although not wonderful. I like what you said about the mood the filmmaker created, leaving you feeling no one was to be trusted. And I love what you said about the courtroom scenes. That’s one of my pet peeves about courtroom scenes – in real life, judges and lawyers don’t throw out snappy, theatrical one-liners.

  5. Evan Crean May 13, 2013 at 4:56 pm

    I think thrillers might be fun to watch during the summer because they rope you in and keep your mind off the weather (good or bad) if you’re stuck inside. I love that this movie keeps you guessing all the time and I agree that the courtroom exchanges feel very natural. This is definitely one of Ford’s better performances and I also love Raul Julia’s character. So sad that the actor met an untimely end working on Street Fighter. I thought the twist at the end was great. Not disappointing at all, actually quite freaky, much like a horror movie as you mention. I’ll stay away from spoilers as well and leave it at that.

  6. ruth May 13, 2013 at 5:31 pm

    I love Harrison Ford and this looks like a different role for him than his usual action hero mode. I like him in Regarding Henry and I’ve been curious to check this one out.

  7. VictorsMovieReviews May 21, 2013 at 1:25 am

    Great review.

    As for the ending, this is a movie I always give as an example of what editing a few seconds from a film can change everything. If this film had simply ended thirty seconds sooner, I think this would have been considered a classic. If only it was made in the 70s.

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