Mississippi Burning (1988) starring Gene Hackman, Willem Dafoe, & Frances McDormand

1964. When America was at war with itself. – Tag line

Mississippi Burning was very controversial when first released; in this time (after the Trump administration), it resonates stronger than ever. Some younger readers may never have heard of this film; it is fiction, but based on a real case (labeled “Mississippi Burning” by the FBI). The film is inspired by the 1964 murder by the Ku Klux Klan (KKK) of three Congress of Racial Equity (CORE) field workers who were registering Black voters in Mississippi: a Black man named James Chaney (age 21) and two white (Jewish) men- Michael Schwerner (age 20) and Andrew Goodman (age 24). Some critics felt that many facts were altered or left out. There is much to admire re: this movie, though to our modern eyes, the lack of a fully-fleshed out Black character may be problematic. Director Spike Lee didn’t like it; he felt the preacher’s son (Aaron) was a “magical Negro” trope. On the other hand, this was Roger Ebert’s choice for the best film of 1988. You know it made a big impact (overseas), b/c it was (unofficially) remade into a Bollywood film, Aakrosh (2010).

Mayor Tilman: You like baseball, do you, Anderson?

Anderson: Yeah, I do. You know, it’s the only time when a black man can wave a stick at a white man and not start a riot.

When you think about it, 1964 is NOT too far back in time from 1988. Barry Norman (BBC film critic) described the (harrowing) opening of the film as “pure cinema, something no other medium could do so effectively.” Then we shift to the (much lighter) scene w/ the main characters- FBI agents Mr. Anderson (Gene Hackman) and Mr. Ward (Willem Dafoe- just 32). Don Johnson campaigned heavily for the role that went to Dafoe- LOL! Anderson (older/rumpled) studies some papers from a folder and sings a KKK song; Ward (younger/crisply-suited) isn’t amused. Anderson is making fun of the KKK, but Ward says: “I could do w/o the cabaret.” Anderson is a former small-town sheriff; Ward is a former DOJ attorney (“a Kennedy boy,” as Anderson comments). These men don’t know each other well and are mismatched, the viewer knows right away.

When they reach the small town, the agents are met w/ long/angry stares and outright hostility from the locals. Ward makes a (Northern/liberal) mistake; he goes to sit at the “Colored” section of the busy diner (NOT heeding the warning from Anderson, who knows the South). The young Black man sitting beside him becomes nervous and refuses to answer Ward’s questions; all eyes are on them. In the sheriff’s office, they first meet Deputy Pell (Brad Dourif), who isn’t too welcoming. Dourif makes some interesting choices w/ his role; he doesn’t always play it tough (we see that Pell is being influenced by more stronger personalities). Suddenly, Sheriff Stuckey (Gailard Sartain) pops out of his office, and starts breezily chatting w/ Anderson. Ward corrects him after Stuckey (the epitome of a fat, uncaring, racist cop) assumes Anderson is in charge of the investigation. In the barbershop, Anderson meets Mayor Tilman (R. Lee Ermey), who is more casually racist. In the motel lodge (later that night), we see the agents drinking and sharing stories. Anderson (matter-of-factly/softly) reveals something about his childhood growing up in the South.

Anderson: Where does it come from? All this hatred?

Anderson: You know, when I was a little boy, there was an old Negro farmer that lived down the road from us, name of Monroe. And he was… well, I guess he was just a little luckier than my daddy was. He bought himself a mule. That was a big deal around that town. My daddy hated that mule, ’cause his friends were always kidding him that they saw Monroe out plowing with his new mule, and Monroe was going to rent another field now he had a mule. One morning, that mule showed up dead. They poisoned the water. After that, there wasn’t any mention about that mule around my daddy. It just never came up. One time, we were driving down that road, and we passed Monroe’s place and we saw it was empty. He just packed up and left, I guess, he must of went up North or something. I looked over at my daddy’s face. I knew he done it. He saw that I knew. He was ashamed. I guess he was ashamed. He looked at me and said, “If you ain’t better than a n****r, son, who are you better than?”

Ward: You think that’s an excuse?

Anderson: No it’s not an excuse. It’s just a story about my daddy.

Ward: Where’s that leave you?

Anderson: My old man was just so full of hate that he didn’t know that bein’ poor was what was killin’ him.

A shotgun fires from a screeching car into the motel room! Ward decides that more agents are needed ASAP. The young Black man from the diner is picked up my some (hooded) men, beaten, and imprisoned in a large chicken coop in a field of cotton. (FYI: Since this wasn’t the season for cotton, the crew had to decorate the field w/ bits of cotton.) Then we see the same Black man pushed out of a car in the center of town- sending an (obvious) message to the FBI. The local cops and a group of (suited) FBI agents run to check on the injured man; Stuckey declares that his men will handle the matter. Agents have set up their HQ in the movie theater. Later we see them (along w/ buses of fresh-faced sailors) drag a swamp (a real one w/ mud, bugs, and possible alligators) for dead bodies.

…I didn’t do research. All I did was listen to [Hackman]. He had an amazing capacity for not giving away any part of himself (in read-throughs). But the minute we got on the set, little blinds on his eyes flipped up and everything was available. It was mesmerizing. He’s really believable, and it was like a basic acting lesson. -Frances McDormand

Now this isn’t just a typical “macho” movie; at the heart of it is the wife of the deputy- Mrs. Pell (a young Frances McDormand)- who also runs a hair salon (Gilly’s). Anderson first drops in at the salon, making self-deprecating comments about his hair (w/ its receding hairline). This amuses some of the ladies; Mrs. Pell bluntly points out that the FBI wouldn’t be around if the white men weren’t missing (along w/ Chaney). Later, when Ward and Anderson drop by the Pell’s humble home, we see the (not so pleasant) dynamic between the couple. While Ward interviews her husband, Anderson goes to the kitchen and strikes up a convo w/ Mrs. Pell (in a humble manner, using folksy charm). Later that night, we learn more about both characters when Anderson comes by w/ some wildflowers. We see the romantic chemistry growing between Anderson and Mrs. Pell, despite their ages and the situation. She has to lie to cover for her husband; Anderson realizes that she is lying (and they both look disappointed about it). Before he leaves, he gently touches her hair (a bold, yet vulnerable move). In a previous scene, Anderson had made “a power move” on Deputy Pell; he is working late (or maybe getting into some violence w/ his KKK pals).

Mrs. Pell: It’s ugly. This whole thing is so ugly. Have you any idea what it’s like to live with all this? People look at us and only see bigots and racists. Hatred isn’t something you’re born with. It gets taught. At school, they said segregation what’s said in the Bible… Genesis 9, Verse 27. At 7 years of age, you get told it enough times, you believe it. You believe the hatred. You live it… you breathe it. You marry it.

After being hired by Orion Pictures, Parker made several changes from screenwriter Chris Gerolmo’s original draft (which was “a big/violent detective story”). Parker omitted a Mafia hitman and created Agent Monk. The scene in which Frank Bailey brutally beats a news cameraman was based on an actual event. Parker also wrote a sex scene involving Anderson and Mrs. Pell. The scene was omitted (after Hackman suggested to Parker that the relationship between the two characters be more discreet). Though some close-ups were shot, in the final film, the kiss between Hackman and McDormand is in shadow (at a respectful distance). The music (composed by Trevor Jones) is a very crucial part of this movie; it creates a tense (thriller-like) atmosphere in many scenes. In several key scenes, there is the gospel element. The movie was shot in Alabama and Mississippi, so there is authenticity. We see the old buildings, dust, poverty, rural lands, and (above all) local people (some of whom may had sympathies to the Klan). There are many character actors who add flavor to the story: Kevin Dunn (a young/eager FBI agent coordinating the case), Stephen Tobolowsky (a prominent businessman/KKK leader), Michael Rooker (the unapologetic tough guy/KKK member-Frank Bailey), a teen Darius McCrary (Aaron), Frankie Faison (a respected preacher/Aaron’s father), and Badja Djola (the Black FBI interrogator- Agent Monk). Ward (who is no pushover, despite his by-the-book approach) and Anderson (smarter than he looks) come to respect each other, but it happens slowly; they don’t become “buddy cops.”

“Primal Fear” (1996) starring Richard Gere, Laura Linney, & Edward Norton

Sooner or later a man who wears two faces forgets which one is real. -Tag line

In Chicago, a 19 y.o. former altar boy, Aaron (Edward Norton- in his breakout role), is charged w/ the brutal murder of an archbishop. A well-known criminal lawyer, Martin Vail (Richard Gere), takes on his case pro bono. The prosecution is lead by Marty’s former colleague/ex-gf- Janet Venable (Laura Linney). Aaron was homeless before he was taken in by the religious leader; he’s shy, humble, and speaks w/ a stammer; this could make him look sympathetic to the jury. Marty is convinced that Aaron is innocent, but then he finds a disturbing video that shows Aaron may have had good reason to want the archbishop dead. One day, Aaron lashes out at Molly (Frances McDormand), the psychologist Marty hired to examine him; another personality (Roy) is revealed! With the trial underway, Martin can’t change Aaron’s (not guilty) plea; he tries to find a way to introduce his client’s mental condition.

[Marty is trying to woo Janet again]

Marty: Come on. Let’s go find a bar you can still smoke in.

Janet: Thanks for the invite, but I don’t like one-night stands all that much.

Martin: We saw each other for months.

Janet: It was a one-night stand, Marty. It just lasted six months.

I heard buzz about this film during the 1997 awards season; I never watched it until last week. The cast here is very strong, w/ everyone putting in a fine performance (incl. the minor players). I was (pleasantly) surprised to see Linney (who has great chemistry w/ Gere) and Andre Braugher (who plays Tommy, the PI/former cop). Maura Tierney plays Naomi, Marty’s legal secretary. John Mahoney plays DA Shaughnessy; he was Marty’s former boss. Look out also for a Jon Seda (ageless) as one of Aaron’s pals. The judge is played by Alfre Woodard. Director Gregory Hoblit is known for his work on legal and police dramas.

Marty: [sitting w/ journo in a bar] Why gamble with money when you can gamble with people’s lives? That was a joke. All right, I’ll tell you. I believe in the notion that people are innocent until proven guilty. I believe in that notion because I choose to believe in the basic goodness of people. I choose to believe that not all crimes are committed by bad people. And I try to understand that some very, very good people do some very bad things.

In the first act of the story, we see Marty as confident (bordering on arrogant) and publicity-seeking (followed by a journo doing a profile on him). He thinks his charm will convince Janet to see him again (though she isn’t having it); they flirt w/ and challenge each other. I liked all the scenes w/ Gere and Linney; they conveyed that they had a long relationship (which wasn’t all bad). In the end, we see Marty cut down to size and dejected (Gere’s breathing even changes, one viewer commented); he has been fooled by his manipulative client. Marty wanted so hard to believe in his client.

Marty: [while in Aaron’s solitary confinement room] I speak. You do not speak. Your job is to just sit there and look innocent.

I knew there was some big plot twist, but I thought Aaron and Roy would be two distinct personalities (but it’s Roy only)! Norton’s performance comes off as natural (you can’t see the acting); he gets to let loose in two particularly intense scenes. He worked several years in the theater, so knows how to use his body well (much is done w/ body language here). Norton is 26 y.o. in this movie, but he looks a bit younger (thanks to his haircut, speech, and mannerisms). Over 2,000 young male actors auditioned for the role of Aaron (wow) before Norton was chosen! Gere was so frustrated, so almost quit the movie, as the search continued. Though born in Boston, Norton was raised in the suburban DC area (Columbia, MD). I will check out more of his work; I’ve seen Rounders (w/ Matt Damon) and Birdman (which won some Oscars).

“The Firm” (1993) starring Tom Cruise, Jeanne Tripplehorn, & Gene Hackman

Did y’all read John Grisham novels back in JHS (like me); I recall reading a few (which were made into movies that my family and I saw). My fave is (of course) The Pelican Brief, as it stars Denzel Washington; Julia Roberts, Sam Shepard and the supporting cast perform well also. The director was Alan J. Pakula; he also wrote the screenplay. Julia commented that “working w/ Denzel was like working w/ The Beatles.” The Client (starring Susan Sarandon and Tommy Lee Jones) has also been considered a good movie w/ touching performances; it was directed by Joel Schumacher. A Time to Kill was the first starring role for Matthew McConaughey (looking gorgeous); he is a young defense lawyer. I liked it when I was younger; it’s NOT that subtle (also directed by Schumacher). It has a strong cast: Donald Sutherland (and son Kiefer), Samuel L. Jackson (the defendant), Kevin Spacey (the district attorney), Sandra Bullock (an ACLU attorney), Ashley Judd, etc. It’s where I discovered Chris Cooper (one of my fave character actors); he just embodies every role he takes on. The first Grisham novel to be made into a movie is (probably) the most well-known- The Firm.

Mitch: Hey Ray, wouldn’t it be funny if I went to Harvard, you went to jail, and we both ended up surrounded by crooks.

Mitch McDeere (Tom Cruise) is a recent Harvard grad w/ a promising future in law. About to sit for the bar exam, he is approached by a small Memphis firm; they make him an offer he doesn’t refuse. Mitch and his wife, Abby (Jeanne Tripplehorn), are nearly bowled over- they get a luxury car, fully-furnished house, and plenty of Southern hospitality. Also, Mitch will be just across the river from the prison where his older bro is being held. Suddenly, two of the associates are killed while boating in the Cayman Islands. The FBI contact Mitch, asking him for info. He can work with the FBI or stay loyal to the firm. Whatever decision he makes, he’ll lose the successful life he dreamt of since a boy growing up in a trailer park. Mitch thinks up his own plan…

Mitch [to Wayne]: Ten thousand dollars and five years in prison. That’s ten and five for each act. Have you really looked at that? You’ve got every partner in the firm on overbilling. There’s two hundred fifty acts of documented mail fraud there. That’s racketeering! That’s minimum one thousand, two hundred fifty years in prison and half a million dollars in fines. That’s more than you had on Capone.

I saw this movie for the second time recently; I saw it way back in HS. It’s pretty good, though it could’ve been edited down much more (as it clocks in at 2 hrs. 34 mins.) The director was Sydney Pollack; the supporting cast included Ed Harris, Holly Hunter (who got an Oscar nom), David Strathairn (looking good- even in prison garb), Gary Busey (before he went off the rails), Terry Kinney (w/ a full head of blonde hair), Wilford Brimley (in a rare meaty role), and Hal Holbrook. I’m NOT a big fan of Cruise, BUT I think he did a fine job here. There is great chemistry between Cruise and Tripplehorn, so you buy them as a solid/loving couple (though they are still in their 20s). Hackman (who plays senior partner Avery Tolar) does a great job; he goes from intimidating to friendly, then (in the end) becomes rather vulnerable and sympathetic. There is a creep factor in (most of) the scenes between Abby and Avery; he obviously has a thing for her.

Abby: What are they going to do to you?

Avery: Whatever it is, they did it a long time ago.

The firm is all about control; they have the McDeere house bugged and even set traps for Mitch when he is on the Cayman trip. First, he gets hit on by a woman at the bar, as Avery dances nearby. Mitch refuses her advances and goes for a walk on the beach; he comes upon a man acting aggressive w/ a woman. Mitch gets to play the hero- the abusive man rushes off. I learned that Halle Berry tried out for the role of this stranger on the beach (played by former model Karina Lombard). Why does Mitch hook up w/ this woman so quickly!? Well, she is young, unusually beautiful, and tells him a story of wanting to be “safe” (financially). You can see that Mitch connects to this desire. I was surprised that I got a BIT emotional in the end, when Abby comes back to Mitch.

Abby: I’ve loved you all my life. Even before we met. Part of it wasn’t even you. It was just a promise of you. But these last days… You kept your promise. How could you lose me?

Hunter (who wears some loud costumes and colorful wigs) admitted that she never saw this movie. This was the same year that she gained critical acclaim w/ The Piano. I couldn’t help but notice the chemistry between Hunter and Strathairn in one of the last scenes; he’s looking at her like he’s really in love- yowza! During the end credits, we see them sailing off together.

Terror at Home: “Pacific Heights” (1990) & “Unlawful Entry” (1992)

Pacific Heights (1990) starring Melanie Griffith, Matthew Modine, & Michael Keaton

The home is the most dangerous place – the old saying goes. A young couple in San Fran, Drake Goodman (Modine) and Patty Palmer (Grifffith), decide to save on rent by buying a house. Despite it being outside of their price range, they purchase a Victorian house in Pacific Heights (a friendly/diverse neighborhood). They start making renos and renting out the 2 apts. on the ground floor. They rent out the 1 BD back unit to the Watanabes (a older Japanese couple); seemingly-wealthy Carter Hayes (Keaton) is able to manipulate his way into renting the front studio (promising to pay 6 mos. in advance). Drake and Patty eventually learn that Carter is the tenant from hell.

Drake Goodman: [as they are house painting] You have to remember this is an investment, Patty. You can’t afford to do everything at once.

Patty Palmer: It’s not just an investment – it’s our home.

Screenwriter Daniel Pyne once rented an apt. to a tenant that he couldn’t evict. In the original script, Carter was a bisexual man who sexually threatened both Drake and Patty; there is no trace of this in the movie. I can’t believe they got such a (respected/veteran) director- John Schlesinger- to work on this boring/predictable movie! There is next to zero chemistry between Modine and Griffith, so I can’t buy them as a couple; these are already actors I tend to avoid. Also, like some critics, I found it tough to empathize w/ this pair. To add insult to injury, check out the terrible fashion they made Griffith wear- ugh. Keaton is trying to do something w/ the scraps he has been given (fresh off of his Batman fame); however, Carter doesn’t come off as scary. Unlike many domestic thrillers, he is a con man after money, NOT a psychopath after another man’s wife. It was at least nice to see a young Laurie Metcalf (best known for Roseanne) as a capable lawyer.

It’s like a yuppie horror. Instead of taking an axe to the head, they take it to the house. Roger Ebert

There is a rather problematic assumption that Drake makes re: potential Black tenant, Mr. Baker (Carl Lumbly), which will rub many modern viewers the wrong way. And yes, I guessed that Baker would turn out to be a cop! As Drake’s more financially-stable/wiser friend Reed, Dorian Harewood doesn’t get much to do. Yup, they put in a Black bestie to offset the possibly racist assumption that Drake made re: Baker; it can’t get more predictable! Avoid this movie- you’re welcome.

Unlawful Entry (1992) starring Kurt Russell, Madeleine Stowe, & Ray Liotta

Issues of security, policing, and masculinity make this film a worthwhile watch (even for modern audiences). After a break-in at their house, a suburban LA couple- Michael (Russell) and Karen Carr (Stowe)- get help from one of the cops- Officer Pete Davis (Liotta)- that answered their call. He helps them install a security system and begins dropping by, even when NOT on patrol. Pete opens up to Karen, hoping to get to know her better. Michael grows V concerned about Pete after going on a ride-along w/ him and his partner.

The director, Jonathan Kaplan (who was known for his TV work), also worked on the critically-acclaimed drama Love Field (also released in 1992). Kaplan’s style is unfussy and workman-like (as some critics noted); this choice works for thrillers. Siskel and Ebert both liked the movie, esp. the strong performance by Liotta (in one of his early roles). I liked Russell and Stowe as a couple; they were easy to empathize with also. They didn’t expect crime to come to their area, or affect them in such a (potentially violent) manner. Russell is playing against type as a yuppie developer; his latest project is a nightclub (actually a beautiful/historic theater in downtown LA). Stowe is an elementary schoolteacher who loves kids; the viewer wonders (like Pete) why she and her hubby don’t have some of their own.

This movie isn’t as shallow as I assumed it would be. It came out after the (infamous) Rodney King beating and subsequent riots. To modern eyes, it will bring to mind the recent changes in policing (after BLM, the worldwide outrage at the George Floyd killing, and related events). Notice how horrified Michael looks when he sees Pete beating the scared/junkie (a Black man) after the ride-along. Yes, this is the same man who broke into the Carr’s house and put a knife to Karen’s throat; however, Pete beats him even when he is unarmed (and has his hands up). Pete’s partner (also a Black man) has already gone off-duty, so didn’t see any of this. Of course, Karen didn’t see this brutal behavior, so she thinks Michael is overreacting. Pete even goes to Karen’s school to talk to the kids, explaining that the police are there “to help people.” We know it’s NOT always the case (from evidence filmed on modern cell phones)! There are (huge) cell phones in this movie; some lawyers and businessmen carried them. At the party, the potential investors are interested to talk w/ Pete, as they are concerned re: the security of the nightclub.

This movie also has something to say re: society’s notions of masculinity and femininity. Michael (who is educated/ambitious) can provide financially for his wife, BUT can’t protect her physically (in the beginning of the movie). He hesitates in taking the chance to hit the burglar w/ his golf club; Michael thinks this makes him weak. Pete (who is trained to fight/authorized to carry a gun) doesn’t hesitate in using violence. He thinks this makes him stronger than Michael (and better suited for Karen), BUT he is an abuser. In the poolside scene, you realize that Pete has put Karen on a pedestal; he turns away when she gets out of the water. In the cop bar, Pete and Karen chat, and we get the sense that she could find him attractive. In Pete’s eyes, Karen (beautiful/refined) is TOO good for him. In the post-hookup scene in his patrol car, Pete insults/hits the blonde prostitute. This woman (able to be bought) is “trash” to Pete, though she was nice to him. In the end, BOTH husband and wife have to work together to defeat the cop who NOT only threatened their relationship, BUT was a danger to society-at-large.

“Trial by Jury” (1994) & “The Juror” (1996)

Trial by Jury (1994) starring Joanne Whalley-Kilmer, Armand Assante, Gabriel Byrne, & William Hurt

For one juror, the question of guilt or innocence is a matter of life or death… her own. -Tag line

For those who’ve seen The Juror (see below), this film (which was released first) will seem very familiar! However, this story focuses more on the trial, rather than what happens outside the courtroom. Both individuals are (oddly) happy to appear for jury duty, as many viewers have chuckled at. The son here is younger and there is a supportive grandfather character (who lives upstate on a small farm). The fathers (ex-husbands to the protagonists) are barely mentioned; they’re absent from the daily lives of the sons. Both moms must survive under tremendous pressures and eventually take actions into their own hands (rather than relying on the authorities).

In NYC, Valerie Alston (Whalley-Kilmer) is a single mom/owner of a vintage clothing store called to participate in the jury of the trial of mobster Rusty Pirone (Assante). Just before the trail begins, the key witness for the prosecution is executed, along w/ the four police officers who were protecting him. The lead prosecutor, Daniel Graham (Byrne), is on a mission to get Pirone, and also the media’s attention. An alcoholic ex-cop, Tommy Vesey (Hurt), threatens to hurt Valerie’s son unless she says “not guilty.”

I enjoyed the parts w/ Byrne and his team of eager/ambitious prosecutors. Assante made a smooth/compelling villain (w/ a love of classic films and everything old-fashioned). Playing against type, freelance baddies Hurt (w/ waves in his blonde hair) and Kathleen Quinlan share a dysfunctional dynamic. The third act of the story is (obviously) inspired by the noir genre. I wasn’t a fan of the editing; this movie could’ve been shorter and more tightly put together.

You will feel Gabriel Byrne’s frustration as he tries to catch the mob boss and and work within the law only to have the legal system perverted by the influence of that mob. You will see how his character… could easily have gone in that direction.

-Excerpt from IMDB review

The Juror (1996) starring Demi Moore, Alec Baldwin, Joseph Gordon-Leavitt, James Gandolfini, & Anne Heche

In upstate NY, Annie Laird (Moore) is a sculptor (clerk by day) raising a smart/observant 13 y.o. son, Oliver (Gordon-Leavitt) on her own. Annie is cautious, responsible, and busy (though doesn’t mind going to jury duty). She even comments to Oliver: “I need some excitement in my life!” Her closest friend is a carefree/single doctor, Juliet (Heche), who also shares a great rapport w/ Oliver. I liked the female friendship element in this story, thought the women seemed like opposites. Annie is one of the jurors chosen for the trial of Louie Boffano, who is accused of the murders of a rival mob family (incl. a 10 y.o. boy). A mysterious man dressed in black (Baldwin) bugs Annie’s (eclectic-looking) farmhouse; his friend/colleague Eddie (Gandolfini) keeps a lookout.

The next day at a gallery in NYC, Annie receives a check for $12,000, as she has finally sold some of her work. Outside this gallery, a man introduces himself to Annie as “Mark”- the art dealer who purchased the sculptures. He humbly asks her to go have coffee; they have a chat re: art vs. business (which I liked). When Mark explains that “art is used as a kind of currency” in Japan, Annie becomes indignant, saying: “I don’t want my work treated as currency!” Some critics/viewers said this was naive of Annie; after all, she is trying to transition to becoming an artist full-time. Annie decides to go out on a date with Mark, encouraged by Juliet, who thinks her friend is too reserved. Well, Mark (who had some serious issues- we will learn) reveals his true intent for getting close to Annie- she must declare that Boffano is “not guilty.”

To keep the viewer guessing, Baldwin’s face is kept mostly in shadow during the early scenes. There is a good amount of tension in this film, which keeps the viewer’s attention. There are some implausible moments and the editing could’ve been tighter. I thought Gandolfini did an esp. fine job; he was probably the most “normal” character (though still a baddie) in the movie. There are twists and turns, so you won’t be bored. I liked the (pivotal/intense) action scene between Baldwin and several mobsters. Like many viewers, I didn’t see the point in taking the story to Guatemala. We also never learn much re: Dr. Boone (Matt Craven)- is he Annie’s ex/Oliver’s father or just an old (platonic) pal? The final face-off is exciting, but also rather cliched (as seen in other action movies).

The role she [Demi Moore] plays here is, in a sense, the feminine counterpart of many Harrison Ford roles, the ordinary person elevated to heroic action by compelling circumstances.

Alec Baldwin… He fills the screen with his presence like something you can’t get rid of. He is so compelling you want to push him away or just give up. And he is charming-evil, but charming.

-Excerpt from IMDB review