Presumed Innocent (1990) starring Harrison Ford, Brian Dennehy, Raul Julia, Bonnie Bedelia, Paul Winfield, Greta Scacchi, John Spencer, Joe Grifasi directed by Alan J. Pakula Movie Review

Presumed Innocent (1990)   3/53/53/53/53/5

Brian Dennehy and Harrison Ford in Presumed Innocent (1990)

Lawyer gets Lawyered

"Presumed Innocent" is a movie which for some strange reason the negatives are just as memorable as the positives such as an early scene where Brian Dennehy as D.A. Raymond Horgan sounds like a cliche film-noir detective with his over descriptive manner of speaking. It is annoying because these negatives end up distracting from what is a good thriller, a three part thriller at that with a nicely worked courtroom element where Raul Julia steals every scene he is in.

When promising and sexy attorney Carolyn Polhemus (Greta Scacchi - Defence of the Realm) is found murdered D.A. Raymond Horgan (Brian Dennehy - Cocoon: The Return) assigns his right hand man Rusty Sabich (Harrison Ford - Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade) to investigate the case as Raymond is more concerned with his re-election campaign. But Rusty struggles with the case because he had an affair with Carolyn, an intense affair which when she ended it he found it hard to let her go. When Horgan loses his bid for re-election and Nico Della Guardia (Tom Mardirosian) becomes D.A. Rusty finds himself arrested and being tried for the murder of Carolyn.

Raul Julia as Sandy Stern in Presumed Innocent (1990)

There are several things going on in "Presumed Innocent" starting with the complexity of Rusty investigating the murder of the woman he had an affair with and who he still longed for. We quickly learn that because of his affair his relationship with his wife Barbara is sensitive especially when she learns he is investigating the case and at the same time we also learn that Rusty wasn't the only one sleeping with Carolyn. It may sound cliche but we get a picture painted of Carolyn as a woman using men to advance her career and via a series of flashbacks as Rusty reminisces we get this picture of twisted love as she used and discarded him in her endeavour to climb the career ladder. All of which is nice as it sets the scene nicely from twisted relationships to missing files from Carolyn's office whilst we also get the aspect of Raymond Horgan concerned with his re-election.

This leads to what for me is the best part of the movie as Rusty is arrested and finds himself in court with his old adversary Sandy now defending him and having to do battle with the new D.A. Della Guardia. Not only do we get an entertaining look at the judicial system as well as crime investigation we get Raul Julia as Sandy stealing every scene he is in. Harrison Ford may get top billing but it is Julia as Sandy as he prowls around the courtroom, dissecting and discrediting the prosecutions witnesses which is stunning. It is the stuff of great courtroom drama because Sandy toys with the witnesses, slowly making them fall on their own sword as he humiliates them and their statements. Not only that we get the first twist and a very good twist concerning the judicial system which you don't see coming.

Then we get the final part the truth.... Now I am not going to tell you what happens but I will say that when it came to the murder of Carolyn I suspected someone quite early on and I was right. It was purely a hunch but because I suspected the tight person the power of the final twist was lessened and that is a shame because it is a good twist. And it is not only a twist because we get a how it was done as well as a who done it and listening to how it was done is just as good.

Now I have already mentioned Raul Julia who for me steals the movie right from underneath Harrison Ford but Ford's performance is good. It is a restrained quiet performance and he creates this character caught in the middle of job, love and saving his own behind as he knows things will naturally point to him. It is because this is an intentionally quieter performance that other actors steal scenes and they include Bonnie Bedelia as his wife and also Paul Winfield as Judge Larren Lyttle. The only performance I didn't like is that from Brian Dennehy because as Raymond Horgan he seems to be trying to play him as if he was a detective in a 50s film-noir with his over descriptive style of speaking.

What this all boils down to is that "Presumed Innocent" is still a thoroughly entertaining and clever thriller which delivers 3 good parts. It is not perfect and there are certain things which distract a little too much but then you have the pleasure of Raul Julia's performance in the courtroom which is up there with other great courtroom dramas.