Under Suspicion
dir Stephen Hopkins scr Tom Provost, W Peter Iliff
with Gene Hackman, Morgan Freeman, Thomas Jane, Monica Bellucci, Miguel Angel Suarez, Pablo Cunqueiro, Nydia Caro, Jackeline Duprey, Luis Caballero, Isabel Algaze, Vanessa Shenk, Gellian Cotto
release US 22.Sep.00; UK 12.Jan.01
00/US 1h41 3 out of 5 stars
Review by Rich Cline
Face/Off. It's clash of the titans as Hearst and Benezet (Hackman and Freeman) lock horns during a police interrogation.
Adapted from the French film Garde a Vue as well as the original source novel (John Wainwright's Brainwash), Under Suspicion is a sharply written, provocative dramatic thriller about two men locked in a battle for respectability. Set in San Juan, Puerto Rico, on San Sebastian Day, the story follows an upstanding community leader, lawyer Henry Hearst (Hackman), who is called into the police station before a big fundraising dinner for 10 minutes of questioning by Captain Benezet (Freeman). But those 10 minutes become hours as the tenacious Benezet and his rottweiler-like deputy (Jane) grill Hearst about the nights two young girls were raped and murdered. And then they bring in Hearst's distant young wife (Bellucci) to further undermine his protestations of innocence.

The encounter between these two men is gripping as their experiences, failures and bitternesses are flung like grenades at each other, bringing up issues of age, race, sexual proclivities, marital collapse and ruthless ambition. And of course the marvellous Hackman and Freeman make the film work, peeling back layers of defences as all their sordid little secrets come out. It's fairly mesmerising stuff, unafraid to touch on some very difficult subjects and directed with perhaps a bit too much flair by Hopkins. Its use of flashbacks is very Usual Suspects-like, and quite clever, even though we know there will be a few requisite Big Twists at the end (and, surprise, there are!). And there's something small and unambitious about the film that keeps it from being fully satisfying. Despite the crackling script and fine central performances, it just never gets under the surface of the stagey set-up to make things quite meaningful or resonant enough.

[15--strong adult themes, language] 14.Dec.00

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READER REVIEWS

Kaye, net: "I am still trying to figure out who killed the girls and if the wife was involved. These movies with no clear ending drive me nuts. I thought it would turn out to be the young detective. Have read masses of reviews to find the answer and no-one mentions the ending (conveniently)!" (27.Jul.03)

stuart johnstone, net: "I've just sat and watched this film with husband and two teenage daughters and none of us can come up with a good explanation for the ending. However, apart from the ending, we were not only very impressed with the acting but totally engrossed in picking up clues and discussing possibilities - lots of pressing the pause button so we could try out an idea. It's a long time since the four of us watched anything so avidly together. We're still trying to work out why Hackman confessed. Please donate suggestions. As the above viewer says, all the film reviewers fail to discuss the ending at all." (13.Feb.05)

Editor's note: Film critics never discuss the ending because it's our job to comment on a film's quality, but not ruin the experience for audiences. If the ending bugs us, we'll say so. But we can't go into details about why. And by the way, as a result of this, with all the movies I see, I can almost never remember how a film ends, since it's the one thing I'm not allowed to talk about!


2000 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall

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