SUSPECT (1987) is an involving film, but one that is peppered with
actions that are either implausible or at least highly improbable. If
your ability to suspend disbelief is strong, you will probably find
yourself enjoying some of the courtroom drama and thriller aspects of
the film - numerous flaws and all. None of the acting is great, but it
is fairly compelling, and director Peter Yates (from THE RUN OF THE
COUNTRY) knows how to make entertaining films.
In SUSPECT, a Washington DC judge commits suicide and his
secretary is killed. A homeless person Carl Wayne Anderson (Liam
Neeson from ROB ROY) is accused of killing her for the nine dollars in
her purse. Anderson is assigned to overworked public defender Kathleen
Riley (Cher). Anderson attacks and hurts her as well as some of the
guards. Soon however, they find out he is "deaf and dumb" and a
Vietnam vet with a troubled past. He never learned to sign since he
had no one to talk to.
The show switches to the capital where lobbyist Eddie Sanger
(Dennis Quaid from THE RIGHT STUFF) does everything including sleeping
with a Congresswoman to get her vote. Sanger is called to be on
Anderson's jury. Although he tries to get off, he is unsuccessful. In
a show full of unbelievable actions, he falls for Riley and starts
investigating the case on his own. He meets with her on the sly to
share his ideas on how to approach the case. Sure.
Meanwhile, Riley is being stalked by a religious fanatic and
homeless person. He threatens to kill her with a knife. Making her
life equally miserable is a Republican judge, Judge Matthew Helms (John
Mahoney from PRIMAL FEAR), who for some mysterious reason wants the
trial over quickly with no delays no matter how valid Riley's reasons.
Yes, this show is quite predictable. If a Hollywood screenwriter makes
a point of labeling someone a Republican, the wardrobe department might
as well have him wear a black hat through the rest of the picture.
The music by Michael Kamen is sappy. Whenever the director needs
extra tension, and Eric Roth's script can't provide enough, Yates turns
to the composer to crack up the violins. Actually, the script gets
almost laughable at points. After complaining about not seeing a movie
in a year and not being able to have a kid because she is too busy to
date, Riley laments, "I spend all of my day with murders and rapists,
and what's really crazy, I like them."
Even with the ridiculous script, I managed somehow to like the
performances by Cher and Quaid. One of my favorite small actors Joe
Mantegna (from HOUSE OF GAMES) plays prosecutor Charlie Stella. As for
Neeson, this is one of my least favorite of his films. His performance
in it does nothing for me.
I could probably write an article just on the flaws of the show.
Among those not already mentioned are the fact that Riley somehow
immediately knows that Anderson is left-handed. She also talks to him
expecting to be heard when she is not looking at him. Since he doesn't
read lips and can't hear, this makes it a little difficult.
Nevertheless, he seems to be able to hear part of what she is saying
Typical of the show, the ending comes out of left field. A fun
show to watch in parts, but one where they feel the audience is not
smart enough to see through all of the ridiculous contrivances in the
Copyright © 1996 Steve Rhodes