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Physical Evidence
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by Jack Sommersby

"A Woeful Whodunit"
1 stars

Tries to be another "Jagged Edge" with having the same producer and similar poster style, it's all-thumbs and stone-cold dumb.

As perfunctorily routine as its title, the dreary courtroom-crime tale Physical Evidence is rote and by-the-numbers without so much as a speckle of indication of human hands ever having been involved in the writing and directing departments. It's an assembly-line product minus tension, suspense, mystery and, most of all, believability -- suffice to say, it's not exactly the sharpest knife in the cinematic drawer. What there is of the tired plot has to do with suspended Boston cop Burt Reynolds possibly framed for the death of a medium-level crime kingpin, with eager-beaver public defender Theresa Russell taking on the case to prove herself to her chauvinist cohorts. There's some intent to make us question whether Reynolds might just be the killer (he blacked out from an alcoholic stupor and can't remember anything from the night in question), but the treatment of it's so vague that it just cancels itself out; instead, we're left to ponder over a thin assortment of one-dimensional criminals who it is, but since they're not any more interesting than the hero and heroine we simply don't care. Besides, the whodunit angle is negligently flubbed with the heavy emphasis on red herrings who're too obviously accentuated for us to seriously consider as the real culprit -- as is usually the case, it's the character relegated mostly to the background and given the least to do. And thanks to director Michael Crichton's ineptness at shaping scenes and getting a distinctive rhythm going, the audience isn't propelled over any of the script's many deficiencies -- we're placed smack dab in front of them as if they were a firing squad. Plus, veteran composer Henry Mancini hasn't done anyone any favors with the kind of truly terrible score worthy of a thousand Razzies. Oh, there are some non-quibbles to be had. For every bum line of dialogue there's the occasional witty one by the likes of, "You're a Vassar version of Tarzan." Laurie Patton does a honey of a turn as a goofy receptionist who loves putting all the lines on her phone on hold. And Reynolds is solid and displays a wiry alertness that keeps us watching. (As for the talented Russell, who gave one of the best female performances of all-time as the vice cop in Impulse, she's unaccountably vapid here as if taken over by the pod people.) But after all is said and done, not only is this not a standout of its subgenre like Peter Yates's scary,underrated Suspect, it's not even a quasi-functional one that would appease even the most lenient of the undemanding and would count as quite the artistic mistrial in anyone's book.

Verdict: Guilty as Hell.

link directly to this review at http://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=6972&reviewer=327
originally posted: 09/16/09 15:56:59
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User Comments

8/19/07 mr.mike a felony of a film 2 stars
2/15/05 Sugarfoot It even has Jefferson Darcy in it for goodness sake! 1 stars
2/04/03 Jack Sommersby Reynolds is forceful and focused; the film is anything but. 1 stars
2/02/03 Charles Tatum Thank goodness Crichton had a few manuscripts about dinosaurs laying around 1 stars
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  27-Jan-1989 (R)



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