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GUILTY AS SIN (director: Sidney Lumet; screenwriter: Larry Cohen; cinematographer: Andrzej Bartkowiak; editor: Evan Lottman; music: Howard Shore; cast: Rebecca De Mornay (Jennifer Haines), Don Johnson (David Greenhill), Stephen Lang (Phil Garson), Jack Warden (Moe), Dana Ivey (Judge Tompkins), Luis Guzman (Lt. Martinez), Barbara Eve Harris(Kathleen Bigelow); Runtime: 107; MPAA Rating: R; producer: Martin Ransohoff; Hollywood Pictures; 1993)
It sure looks like a TV movie.

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Director Sidney Lumet (“The Morning After”/”Bye Bye Braverman”/”Gloria”) has a go of directing this unpleasant courtroom drama and flops. The main reason is that the schlocky script by Larry Cohen is at best only ordinary, the plot is preposterous, the situational twists are ridiculous, the dialogue is trite, and the thriller is empty. Its awkward pacing never builds suspense (instead it becomes increasingly strange and actually improves a bit when we realize the Don Johnson character is a sicko homicidal murderer masking himself as a ladies man and any chance of it being a high-concept melodrama now get thrown off the roof). It sure looks like a TV movie, and never improves that much to get a foothold on being a good thriller.

Jennifer Haines (Rebecca De Mornay) is an ambitious and famous Chicago trial lawyer (shot in Toronto), who works for a top law firm. Obsessed with winning and overly confident, she accepts as a client the obnoxious slick handsome womanizer, GQ flashy dresser, David Greenhill (Don Johnson), even as he initially shows his hostile side (it’s laughable to think a top law firm would take on such a client, especially when he doesn’t meet their requirements for a retainer). This egomaniacslimeball is accused of throwing his wealthy wife out of the high-rise building where they lived and stands to inherit her fortune. Jennifer gets him out on bail and then gets locked in a dangerous game of trying to match wits with her demented client, who turns out to be a serial killer.Unable to drop her pervert client, as the judge rules it would be too expensive for the state to start over with a new lawyer (give me a break, this one is totally unbelievable–you only have to tell how threatening your client is). The woman lawyer gets the creeps over her manipulative client,who becomes threatening and she goes into hysterical fits as a damsel-in-peril.

The gigolo lady-killer becomes fixated on his attractive lawyer, and the vulnerable high-powered lawyer believes that she will be his next vic. Haines is helped by her mentor, the 72-year-old investigator, former detective, Moe (Jack Warden), who pounds the pavement looking for evidence of Haines’ previous murders. Jennifer’s boyfriend is played by Stephen Lang, who pops up from time to time but has little to do but act jealous and tell his gal he’s with her all the way.

It’s hard to feel much sympathy for the lawyer, whose big ego is the only reason she takes on such a nasty client.

It plays out as an inferior homage to Joe Eszterhas’s 1985 courtroom thriller, “Jagged Edge.”


Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”