Presumed Innocent (1990) Directed by Alan J. Pakula. With Harrison Ford, Raul Julia, Greta Scaachi, Brian Dennehy, Bonnie Bedelia. John Spencer and Paul Winfield.
Based on a novel by Scott Turow and directed by Alan J. Pakula, himself a veteran of conspiracy-laced thrillers like All the Presidents Men and The Parallax View – Presumed Innocent is a courtroom drama that stars Harrison Ford as Rozat Sabich, an attorney who finds himself at the centre of a murder case.
The murdered woman at the centre of the piece (Greta Scaachi) is herself an attorney – a hot, ambitious blonde one. We learn that she used her sexuality to gain traction in her working life. One flashback sequence emphasises this as we bear witness to Ford (a married man with a kid) and Scaachi indulging in a spot of energetic overtime.
In a sense, it feels like a scaled-up version of something we’d see on daytime television, as the film introduces us to a range of characters and gives us the opportunity to play judge and jury. While it isn’t anything new, or that interesting – this kind of structure offers a certain value of easy entertainment.
The performances are good, however the plot gets in the way of much character development – leaving a talky script that involves Harrison Ford darting from one scene to the next, as we make up our minds about his guilt and/or innocence. Ford is a dependable lead, leaving the scenery-chewing to likes of Brian Dennehy and allowing his natural screen presence to do the talking. That said, Dennehy chews well as Ford’s agitated boss, Raymond Horgan.
While the film has the requisite twists and turns you’d expect of its kind, it doesn’t do enough to make us invest in the characters or care about the outcome. The final twist isn’t that well veiled, and although Ford is fine – he sometimes feels like a back-seat passenger and isn’t fed enough to make his character breathe. While ultimately safe in terms of its overall quality, it is also guilty of being a little dull. 3/5