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‘Presumed Innocent’ Review: Disorder in the Court

David E. Kelley, the veteran television writer who created the “Presumed Innocent” series, has the opposite temperament from Pakula — he’s all about the juice. He’s a master of taking material with a lurid or sensational edge and slickly packaging it for a mainstream TV audience. When he’s in his relaxed mode, on “The Lincoln Lawyer” for Netflix or the risibly pulpy “Big Sky” for ABC, the results can be entertaining, summoning distant memories of his days as chief writer on “L.A. Law.”

When he takes things more seriously, though, he gets in trouble (though it doesn’t necessarily affect his success, as “Big Little Lies” demonstrated). Like Pakula, he makes “Presumed Innocent” more about Sabich than about the presumably less interesting question of whether Sabich is guilty of murder. But all he has to offer are tortured psychology and transgression, presented slickly and repetitively, with head-scratching surprises in place of new ideas. Meant to be provocative, it’s just wearying.

Given five and a half hours to play with, Kelley restores plot points that were cut from the movie and adds his own, some of which almost immediately change the basic terms of Turow’s mystery plot. (A major turning point involving tubal ligation is now moot.) He ups the frequency and steaminess of the flashback sex scenes between Sabich and the victim, Carolyn Polhemus (Renate Reinsve), while nearly eliminating evidence of either her competence or her ambition, which are essential to the plot.

And when the case goes to court, Kelley’s penchant for loony melodrama kicks in, as bodies drop and decisions are made that violate all the rules of sensible procedure that we’ve learned from more sober legal dramas. (We should stipulate that Kelley, a former lawyer, has sensationalized courtroom action for the last 40 years across multiple shows.)

While Polhemus doesn’t come into focus as much more than a sex object, the real victims in this “Presumed Innocent” are the performers. In contrast to Ford’s closed-in, monochromatic performance in the film, where Sabich seemed dumbfounded to be accused of murder, Gyllenhaal is sweaty, jumpy and over the top, playing a Sabich who seems alternately terrified and royally offended, swinging between anguished apologies and violent outbursts.

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