Presumed Innocent (1990) from Johnny Web (Uncle Scoopy; Greg Wroblewski)

Presumed Innocent is a Hollywood thriller, but not a typical one. There are no chase scenes, nor explosions, nor gunshots, nor screaming, nor violence, nor outrageous red herrings. As thrillers go, it is the diametric opposite of Wild Things. If Wild Things were a pair of shoes, it would be bright red pumps with five inch stiletto heels. If Presumed Innocent were a pair of shoes, it would be some comfortable old Hush Puppies.

The plot concentrates on the procedural and political elements of a murder mystery, beginning after the murder has actually been committed. Harrison Ford plays a straight-arrow prosecutor whose boss, an elected D.A., assigned him to the investigation of one of their fellow prosecutors, a seductive and opportunistic female lawyer who had been using her sexual wiles to advance her career. Coming in the middle of a re-election campaign, the case has the potential to be politically lethal to the career of Harrison's boss, hence to Harrison himself, who is the hand-picked number two man in the office.

Ol' Indiana Jones tried to turn the case down, primarily because he was humping the living bejeezus out of the victim, despite his marriage to another woman. Worse than that, the victim had recently dumped Indy, thus making it reasonable to consider him a likely suspect. As the case developed, he was more than just a possible suspect. He was eventually brought to trial for the crime, at which point he really found out who his friends and enemies were. Some of the people he trusted turned against him for reasons which seemed insufficient. Some people he considered enemies turned out to be allies. Some people were loyal to him because they believed in him, and others remained loyal even though they thought he was guilty.

The trial progressed on the basis of standard court procedure, which ultimately neither proved nor disproved anything, as is typical in real courtrooms, where the matter of one's actual guilt or innocence is often less important than whether the police handled the evidence correctly, and who in the case is connected to whom. Indy's colleagues, the detectives, even the judge, lined up for and against him for reasons pretty much unrelated to whether he did it.

To make matters far more complicated, the victim in the case was everyone's lover, not just Indy's. In her sexual march to the top of her profession, she had crossed genitals with just about everyone in the history of the legal system, from Hammurabi to Hamilton Burger, including Indy's boss, as well as many other lawyers and judges related to this particular case. Ultimately, that meant that just about anyone in the courtroom, even the judge, might have been her killer by the same logic that got Indy indicted.

The plot revelations in the film are managed so that we are not sure of Indy's innocence, and if he didn't do it, we're not sure who might have. The ultimate explanation was interesting and appropriate. I'll give it a solid "yes" on my minimum requirements for a thriller: (1) I didn't predict the outcome, but (2) I was satisfied with the explanation, and (3) I might have figured it out if I had really paid attention to all the details.


Greta Scacchi shows her left breast in a sex scene on an office desk. Later she shows her bum in an apres-sex scene with Harrison Ford.

DVD info from Amazon

Not recommended. The DVD has a full screen version and a widescreen version which is NOT anamorphically rendered. (It's letterboxed). The only good news is that the full screen version is the full frame. Both versions are too dark. The only feature is an r-rated trailer which shows all the nudity!

This came out in 1997, and DVDs have improved dramatically since then.

Of course, those three criteria are merely the screening elements. The really important criteria with any type of film are interest and satisfaction. This film meets my expectations. I never thought of reaching for the fast forward because I got interested in what was developing and I didn't want to miss any details. It's a quiet film, but I stayed glued to the plot and got involved in the political machinations of the characters. I liked the fact that the thriller plot was atypically carried by quiet acting, a somber tone, and a minimum of hysteria and flamboyance. The characters are reasonably interesting, although the film concentrates more on procedure than on character development. If you like your thrillers filled with slam-bang action and lurid sex and violence, this isn't for you, but if you'd like to see a thoughtful insider's view of the legal system (the author of the source novel is lawyer Scott Turow), you just might want to give this one a look.

The Critics Vote ...

  • Roger Ebert 3.5/4.

The People Vote ...

  • It was a solid success at the Box Office, a mini-hit which grossed $86 million in the USA and $135 million elsewhere. It has also earned more than $40 million in rental iincome.
The meaning of the IMDb score: 7.5 usually indicates a level of excellence equivalent to about three and a half stars from the critics. 6.0 usually indicates lukewarm watchability, comparable to approximately two and a half stars from the critics. The fives are generally not worthwhile unless they are really your kind of material, equivalent to about a two star rating from the critics, or a C- from our system. Films rated below five are generally awful even if you like that kind of film - this score is roughly equivalent to one and a half stars from the critics or a D on our scale. (Possibly even less, depending on just how far below five the rating is.

My own guideline: A means the movie is so good it will appeal to you even if you hate the genre. B means the movie is not good enough to win you over if you hate the genre, but is good enough to do so if you have an open mind about this type of film. C means it will only appeal to genre addicts, and has no crossover appeal. (C+ means it has no crossover appeal, but will be considered excellent by genre fans, while C- indicates that it we found it to be a poor movie although genre addicts find it watchable). D means you'll hate it even if you like the genre. E means that you'll hate it even if you love the genre. F means that the film is not only unappealing across-the-board, but technically inept as well. Any film rated C- or better is recommended for fans of that type of film. Any film rated B- or better is recommended for just about anyone. We don't score films below C- that often, because we like movies and we think that most of them have at least a solid niche audience. Now that you know that, you should have serious reservations about any movie below C-.

Based on this description, this is a C+. If you like this genre, and prefer a quiet introspective thriller to a fast-paced action film, you will find this at the top of the heap

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