Saturday 5 February 2011

Movie Review: Jagged Edge (1985)

A courtroom drama revolving around a sinister and bloody murder, Jagged Edge finds a tone that is more comfortable than edgy. The film is polished, has good star power, and a story that maintains interest, but it does not stray too far away from the familiar spices that garnish romantically-charged legal spectacles.

Rich socialite Paige Forrester is brutally murdered with a jagged knife in her beach-front vacation villa by a hooded assailant. District Attorney Thomas Krasny (Peter Coyote) locks onto the victim's slick husband Jack (Jeff Bridges) as the prime suspect: Jack stands to inherit all of his wife's fortune.

Jack retains lawyer and divorcee Teddy Barnes (Glenn Close) to defend him; she has the advantage of having previously worked with Krasny, allowing her to anticipate his methods. Teddy in not quite sure that Jack is innocent, but that does not prevent her from becoming his lawyer and lover. At the trial, Krasny's case is circumstantial, and Teddy receives information from a mysterious source allowing her to shift suspicion to a fiery tennis pro who was having an affair with Paige Forrester. Teddy is moving towards a major courtroom victory, but she will need to find out if justice has been served or if she was the manipulated victim of a murderous plot.

After the success of Flashdance (1993), screenwriter Joe Eszterhas was on the journey that would climax with Basic Instinct (1992). Jagged Edge is similar but not as explosive. Rather than a police detective and a seductive prime murder suspect getting entangled in a sexual relationship at the core of a foul-mouthed film, Jagged Edge has a lawyer and a seductive prime murder suspect trampling all over the line between work and play, also with a constant stream of obscenities anchoring the dialogue.

Director Richard Marquand wisely stands back and allows the script and his two stars to take centre stage, Glenn Close and Jeff Bridges developing reasonable chemistry but not generating too much empathy. Other than his good looks, Bridges as Jack Forrester needs to remain aloof from the audience for as long as doubt remains about his guilt. Significant and appreciated screen time is invested in rounding-out Glenn Close's character as Teddy Barnes, as we get to know her children and ex-husband. This helps, but the speed with which Barnes drops her professionalism and her clothes to jump into bed with Forrester seriously undermines her judgement.

Peter Coyote as the ambitious District Attorney Krasny and Robert Loggia as a grizzled investigator who helps Teddy provide good cast support. Coyote is a worthwhile courtroom foe, projecting dark menace linked to his political ambitions and his shady history with Teddy. Loggia has fun as the old-fashioned clue-chaser with too many miles on his shoes.

The murder knife may be jagged, but despite some shortcomings Jagged Edge provides smooth-enough entertainment.

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