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Under Suspicion

Starring Gene Hackman and Morgan Freeman
Screenplay by Tom Provost, W. Peter Iliff
Based upon the Claude Miller's film Garde a Vue written by Claude Miller, Jean Herman and Michel Audiard, based on the book "Brainwash" by John Wainwright
Directed by Stephen Hopkins

IN SHORT: An intelligent, riveting and beautifully acted investigative drama. [Rated R for sexual content and language. 110 minutes]

It is a rare play that can be opened up for the big screen. Just as rare is the script written for the big screen whose finished production makes the audience feel as if it is sitting in an intimate situation, as if it is watching live theater. So, it is a joy of joys to sit through a film topped by the name brand stars of Under Suspicion, helmed by a director who knows how to work a room, when to open up and how to use the primary setting -- those lovely police interrogation rooms with the two way mirrors -- to their best effects.

Twenty-four hours before the opening credits, fifty-seven year old Henry Buchanan Hearst (Gene Hackman) discovered the body of a twelve year old girl, strangled and dumped in the foliage next to a jogging path. The island of Puerto Rico is recovering from the effects of Hurricane Lucy, over a billion dollars worth of damage, and the prominent tax attorney is at the forefront of fundraising to help rebuild his island home. With the festival holiday of San Sebastian in full revel, Hearst is asked for ten minutes of his time, to help the investigating detectives finalize their report. Leaving his much younger trophy wife (Monica Bellucci) to cover his absence, Hearst sits himself down opposite long time acquaintance Captain Victor Benezet (Morgan Freeman) and the Captain's firebrand associate, Detective Felix Owens (Thomas Jane).

Two cops and a suspect in an office. Owens puts the pressure to Hearst. In this case the story leads to more than a good cop bad cop scenario. Benezet's superior (Miguel A. Suarez) does the same to his lackey -- the boss is more concerned with the speech Hearst the suspect is to make at the fundraiser, occurring across the street. It doesn't hurt the visual tension of the story that the wife can stare out a window at the party and see her husband standing in the window of the police station.

Benezet has checked out Hearst's story, and it doesn't add up. In addition, there are other details that place Hearst in the vicinity of other killings of the same type -- indicating a serial murderer. Hearst's story keeps changing but he refuses to call a lawyer. Is it arrogance? Is it innocence? Is it stupidity? Bit by bit we learn of their shared history, possible resentments and failures in their personal lives. Just as you sense that one man is getting the upper hand, things shift radically. Not once, but twice.

Both Freeman and Hackman deliver ace performances with Freeman's fairly even handed dissection of hot bad toupee-headed Hackman's story holding an upper card. With no gimmicks to get in the way, we get to see two fine actors strut their proverbial stuff.

Most of the indie flicks that try to leave open endings do so so clumsily that I've pretty much grown to hate the practice. The twist in Under Suspicion is handled very cleverly, and functions at the psychological level. It didn't piss me off so pay close attention.

On average, a first run movie ticket will run you Eight Bucks. Were Cranky able to set his own price to Under Suspicion, he would have paid...


and I suspect that by the time most folk see this movie on videotape, my mailbox will be filled with requests to explain that twist, a la what's happening as I write this ('cuz American Psycho just hit the market and folks are real confused...)

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