Tuesday 30 January 2018

Movie Review: Under Suspicion (2000)

An interrogation murder mystery, Under Suspicion establishes a tense premise and builds impetus before stumbling badly.

In Puerto Rico, influential lawyer Henry Hearst (Gene Hackman) and his wife Chantal (Monica Bellucci) are getting ready for a gala fundraising event when he is summoned by Police Captain Victor Benezet (Morgan Freeman) for a few questions. Victor and Detective Felix Owens (Thomas Jane) delve into Henry's version of events from the previous day, when he found the dead body of young girl while out jogging with a neighbourhood dog.

Victor and Felix suspect that Henry is hiding something, and when Henry starts to change some details of his story, the suspicions grow. Victor steers the interrogation towards Henry's strained relationship with Chantal, as well as Henry's whereabouts when an earlier murder of another young girl occurred a few weeks back. With Chantal impatiently waiting for her husband at the fundraiser, Henry's interrogation ordeal stretches into the night.

Directed by Stephen Hopkins and co-produced by Hackman and Freeman, Under Suspicion is a character study of a rich man hiding layers of secrets. With Hackman in fine form as Henry Hearst and Freeman and Jane providing the persistent prodding (calm and agitated, respectively), the film's premise provides rich soil to nurture a story of the miseries, frustrations and desires hiding behind facades of tuxedos, mansions and swanky evening gowns.

Intentionally or not, the film is also very much about two carefully planned and staged rapes and murders, the victims innocent young girls, with Henry in the vicinity of both crime scenes. Victor's objective for the night is to solve two heinous crimes, and shredding Henry's carefully cultivated image of success and confronting him with an impressive mound of circumstantial evidence is a means to an end.

With the foundation well constructed, the film's ending falls down in spectacular fashion. Accompanying Henry and Chantal to the smoldering wreck of their relationship core carries some merit, but not when all the other plot points, carefully cultivated over 110 minutes, are abandoned in a flash. Under Suspicion attempts a bait and switch, but sells itself short.

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