Under Suspicion (15)

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The ViewLondon Review

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Review byMatthew Turner15/01/2001

Three out of Five stars
Running time: 110 mins

Stylistic, hit-and-miss thriller that hits plenty of acting high-notes and manages to avoid the usual clichés.

Adapted from Claude Miller’s little-seen 1981 French film Garde a vue (itself taken from a British source novel), this American remake, co-produced by both Hackman and Freeman, transposes the action to San Juan, Puerto Rico, although the reasons for doing so remain unclear – perhaps the two stars / co-producers just fancied shooting the film somewhere hot.

Hackman plays Henry Hearst, a prominent and wealthy attorney in San Juan, married to a beautiful, younger wife (the breath-takingly beautiful Italian actress Monica Bellucci). Freeman plays Police Captain Victor Benezet, a long time friend of Hearst’s. It transpires that Hearst has reported the finding of the body of a young girl while out for his morning run, and Benezet calls him in for some ‘informal’ questioning to go over his statement, on the eve of an important speech Hearst is about to give. The rest of the film takes place in the interrogation room (with some stylistic flashbacks), where it becomes clear that Hearst is the chief suspect in both this and another, similar rape and murder

Admittedly, this sort of thing has been done countless times before. However, there are a number of elements that raise this slightly above the usual clichéd nonsense. Chief amongst these are the stylistic flashback techniques. As Hackman relates his version of events, Freeman suddenly appears in the scene as if he had been there too, questioning Hackman’s version of events. Accordingly, the details change onscreen as Hackman alters his story in light of Freeman’s questions. This has the effect of making you question Hackman’s version and helps to keep you guessing throughout the film.

The acting is, as you’d expect, top notch – both actors committed to the project several years previously on the strength of the script. Freeman suggests a deep obsession with ‘nailing’ Hackman, and you’re left to speculate on what exactly is fuelling that obsession – the exact nature of their friendship is never discussed. Hackman, in turn, admits some startling truths that raise some interesting issues (the nature of fantasy and so on), though some may find the nature of his confession a little distasteful. There is also capable support from both Bellucci and Thomas Jane (last seen in Deep Blue Sea), as Benezet’s overzealous, hateful detective. It would be churlish to reveal the ending, but suffice it to say, it avoids the usual clichés and opts instead for something that is much more thought-provoking, if perhaps detrimentally anti-climactic.

Ultimately, your enjoyment of the film will come down to how you view the ending. This is, then, an interesting film, if not perhaps a great one, but at least you get two top-class actors for your money. Worth a look.

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Content updated: 23/10/2017 21:56

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