Under Suspicion

on September 22, 2000 by Lael Loewenstein
   Adapted from the French film "Garde a Vue" by Claude Miller, "Under Suspicion" aspires to be a taut psychological thriller but fails to generate much tension. Long on talk but short on action, this film about a prominent San Juan attorney (Gene Hackman) suspected of murder has evidently lost something in the translation. Hackman, who executive produced along with co-star Morgan Freeman, has found himself a meaty role in Henry Hearst, a man with many secrets, and Freeman, as the detective whose relentless interrogation comprises the film, is a worthy adversary. But Stephen Hopkins' directorial style is far too straightforward to give this story the panache it needs to rise above the ordinary.

   With his beautiful trophy wife (the gorgeous but wooden Italian actress Monica Bellucci) at his side, Hearst is slated to speak at a fundraiser for victims of a recent hurricane. But Freeman's Captain Benezet, unconvinced by Hearst's ambiguous responses and arrogant attitude, calls him in for questioning the very night of the charity gala. As Benezet and his overzealous colleague (Thomas Jane) push Hearst to confess, they simultaneously chip away at the facade of his perfect marriage and upstanding reputation, revealing a man in the throes of a midlife crisis. Veterans Freeman and Hackman are, as always, a pleasure to watch.

   Hopkins plays with multiple subjective flashbacks, varying the details to support conflicting explanations, but this film is no "Rashomon." Because Benezet's case is based purely on circumstantial evidence, the repetitious Q & A exchange and prosaic shot-countershot technique soon wear thin. You keep hoping for something unexpected, and Tom Provost and Peter Iliff's script does save a couple of surprises for the final reel, but these twists feel like cheap plot gimmicks; they are too little, too late. Setting much of the film in the confining police station is supposed to lend an air of claustrophobia, but its inadvertent effect is spectatorial boredom.    Starring Morgan Freeman, Gene Hackman and Monica Bellucci. Directed by Stephen Hopkins. Written by Tom Provost and W. Peter Iliff. Produced by Anne Marie Gillen, Stephen Hopkins and Lori McCreary. No distributor set. Thriller. Not yet rated. Running time: 111 min.

Tags: Starring Morgan Freeman, Gene Hackman, Monica Bellucci, Directed by Stephen Hopkins. Written by Tom Provost and W. Peter Iliff. Produced by Anne Marie Gillen, Stephen Hopkins, Lori McCreary, Thriller

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