While from the title one might think this is the story of the famous American inventor and rip off merchant, in fact, this thriller from director and writer David J. Burke is the tale of Josh Pollack, a young and ambitious reporter who really needs to get real, as he is somewhat naïve about the harshness of life.
Pollack becomes convinced that the FRAT, a force of elite officers and fighters within the Edison police department has gone completely corrupt and worse, that the whole justice system is quite happy to let the bad officers get away with murder. Literally in some cases. While working on a recent homicide investigation alongside the police, Pollack starts to uncover damming evidence of this corruption and before long he finds that his life and that of his girlfriend are under threat from the officers who are suddenly desperate to make sure that he does not find out anything more and expose them all. Pollack makes the brave decision to proceed with his own private investigation and with the help of his editor, a one time private detective, he determines that he is going to bring down the corrupt mob and hunt down every single person involved in the corruption.
It’s a fairly standard thriller tale but one that is very well written and told. With such actors as Kevin Spacey and Morgan Freeman, how could it be anything other than riveting? Well, the fault lies in the casting of Justin Timberlake as Pollack. While adequate enough in this movie, Timberlake simply does not have the gravitas and force required to pull off the role and it cannot be denied that the film suffers as a result. Had a stronger actor been cast in the lead role, then the movie would reach an excellent rating but Timberlake alas is so amazingly wooden, they might have well cast a giant redwood in the lead. It is a particular shame that his lack of talent is thrown into such sharp relief by being cast against so many magnificent heavyweights.
However it’s not by any means a bad movie, the plot rolls along at a great pace and there are a lot of set pieces which make the film worth watching. The rest of the cast is uniformly excellent and the direction is good. One to watch with a few beers but don’t expect too much.
With a headline cast including Gene Hackman, Morgan Freeman and Monica Belluci, Under Suspicion helmed by director Stephen Hopkins was released in 2000 and is a remake of the original French film “Garde a Vue”. A wonderfully written and performed psychological thriller it’s a tremendously intense movie and perhaps one of Hackman’s greatest performances.
Gene Hackman stars as Henry Hearst, an attorney working in Puerto Rico, a man who seems to have life sewn up. He is wealthy and successful and has a much younger trophy wife in the form of Chantal (Monica Bellucci). On the face of it, basically he has it all. However no one is perfect and Hearst is summoned to the police department by Victor Benezet (Morgan Freeman) where he finds that he is now a suspect in a case involving the discovery of a young girl’s body and the truth about Hearst starts to emerge under cross questioning by a young and ambitious cop, Owens. During this, revealed in flashbacks and narration it becomes apparent that beneath the veneer of respectability, Hearst is a pervert with a fetish for young girls and has hidden this side to his nature for years, indulging in a secretive existence surrounded by prostitution and porn. As the story progresses, Victor’s long held jealousy of Hearst comes to the fore and therefore it seems that he has a vested interest in bringing Hearst down. Suddenly everyone’s motivations are not as black and white as they seemed at the movie’s outset and before long it seems that even the characters are unsure as to their own motivations.
Both Gene Hackman and Morgan Freeman are of course magnificent, as would be expected from their track records. Monica Belluci also makes an impression in one of her breakthrough roles, giving a very understated performance. Hopkins directs with great skill and style and with a flair for interpreting the material. The tension never lets up and the movie leaves several unanswered questions in the mind of the viewer.
A stylish and inventive thriller set against the beautiful San Juan background and with a stellar cast, this is one that is really not to be missed.
Director: Stephen Hopkins
Writers: John Wainwright (book), Claude Miller (1981 screenplay Garde à vue)
Stars: Morgan Freeman, Gene Hackman, Monica Bellucci, Thomas Jane
Release Date: 12 January 2001 (UK)