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Selection for the Weekend of
December 1 - 3, 2000

WMAL's Rob Douglas recommended this film to me last week because it deals with the suicide of a Supreme Court Justice. As I started to watch it, I wasn't sure if it was going to become a WaffleMovies.com selection. The film is full of courtroom drama cliches and a some questionable actions by the characters, which don't reflect reality. However, I kept watching, because I wanted to know how it ended. That makes it good enough for me.

Cher stars as Kathleen Riley, a public defender in Washington, DC. She is burned out and ready to take her first vacation in a year when the worst possible case is thrown in her lap. A homeless man who refuses to speak to anyone and won't cooperate with the police, Carl Wayne Anderson (Liam Neeson), has been arrested and charged with the murder of a young female clerk from the Department of Justice. All the facts of the case point to him as the murderer - he has her wallet when arrested, he was seen sleeping in her car, he was in the parking lot when she came to retrieve her car, and he has a knife like the murder weapon. Riley embarks on her defense, but has little hope.

In steps Eddie Sanger (Dennis Quaid), a high powered lobbyist stuck with jury duty. However, he becomes very interested in the case and starts investigating it on his own. As he gets more information, he passes it along to Riley. She could be found guilty of tampering with the jury if anyone finds out, which would cause a mistrial and lead to her disbarment.

Will Riley get caught with Sanger? Is Anderson guilty? Will Riley and Sanger reveal something that shakes Washington's power structure to its knees (OK, maybe I gave away a little bit of the plot with that one)?

Don't just suspend your disbelief for a moment, throw it out the window. If you look at this movie in a logical manner, you will become frustrated. However, it sucks you in as you start to put all the pieces together and try to find the real killer. Suspect is the type of movie you find on cable late one Friday night and keep watching, even though you need to get to bed, because your curious side just needs to know how it ends.

Cher is OK as the burned out, idealistic defense attorney and Quaid makes his character more believable than the script allows. Neeson doesn't get much to do here and Joe Mantenga has made better choices in roles. However, John Mahoney, best known as Frasier's Dad, is great! He is perfect as the diabolical judge who seems to be moving the trial along a little too fast and with some prejudice against the defense. Best of all, the actors make the plot twists surprising by not revealing or telegraphing the plot.

Yes, you will probably figure out most of the plot early in the movie and the court room theatrics are overly dramatic and downright silly. Yes, it hits all the 80's cliches (homelessness, Vietnam, lawyers breaking the law for justice, the evil of authority, a silly love story). However, the ending is surprising enough to make you feel good that you watched the entire movie.

Grade: B-

Directed by Peter Yates

Written by Eric Roth


Cher …………………….. Kathleen Riley

Dennis Quaid …………… Eddie Sanger

Liam Neeson …………… Carl Wayner Anderson

John Mahoney ………….. Judge Matthew Helms

Joe Mantegna …………… Charlie

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