- Movie Rating -

Physical Evidence (1989)

| January 27, 1989

I hate movies that are so clearly riding the success of an earlier more successful movie – I think in the film critics’ terminology it’s called a ‘rip-off’.  In the case of the crime thriller Physical Evidence, the successful film was Jagged Edge.  That film, which I loved, was about a public defender played by Glenn Close who was never sure if her client played by Jeff Bridges was guilty or innocent.  We felt the tension between the man and the woman and we were genuinely concerned about her safety.

Well, here’s comes the rip-off.  Physical Evidence stars a woefully miscast Teresa Russell as the public defender named Jenny who is assigned the case of a former police officer, played by Burt Reynolds, accused of strangling an extortionist.  This is not an easy case.  Reynolds was earlier accused but never tried for the murder of his own wife.  And further complicating things is the fact that Reynold’s cop has a long list of enemies.  Is he a murderer?  Will she fall in love with him?  Will the sun come up tomorrow?

The major problem with Physical Evidence is that we don’t really care about any of this.  The murders are just plot devices.  The love story is forced.  And we have not one single, solitary moment when we actually begin to ask ourselves if Reynolds is really a killer or if Russell is in any danger.  We know he’s not because he’s played by Burt Reynolds, an actor who is too egotistical to lend himself to a villainous role.  If he were played by, say, James Woods then maybe.  Michael Keaton, perhaps.  Ed Harris.  Robert de Niro.  Dennis Hopper.  Harvey Keitel.  Raul Julia.  Sean Penn.  I can think of a dozen other actors who would have been more convincing in this role

And if Reynolds is miscast, Russel is even worse.  Here is a woman who has been one of the most forward-thinking actresses in the business, an actress so good in Straight Time and Black Widow and The Razor’s Edge, reduced to a forced march through all manner of cliches and padded out scenes that are absolute requirements for this genre.  Her association with Reynolds never feels the least bit interesting or tense or sexy.

You’ll notice I’m not really discussing the plot.  That’s because there’s nothing to discuss.  The who business about the extortionist and the dead wife are all just coat hooks on which to hang the story while we wait for the two leads to roll around in bed together.  It’s a massive ‘who cares’.  My advice: skip the rip-off.  Just rent Jagged Edge.  You’ll be glad you did.

About the Author:

Jerry Roberts is a film critic and operator of two websites, Armchair Cinema and Armchair Oscars.
(1989) View IMDB Filed in: Drama