Suspect (1987)

Cher plays a tireless, put-upon defense attorney who’s handed a seemingly winless case, the murder trial of a homeless man (Liam Neeson) who also happens to be deaf and mute. With the aid of a trusty, nosy juror (Dennis Quaid), she solves the crime. The film is set in Washington, D.C., so you know there are machinations and duplicity and such, so it’s really a question of whether Cher and company can make the twists and turns seem plausible. (Hint: Not especially.)

Stuck in a high-pressure, dead-end job as public defender, Kathleen Riley is handed a thankless assignment – defend a homeless man accused of killing a young woman. Physical evidence is on the side of the prosecutor, but her client insists he’s innocent. A concerned juror decides to help her out, illegally. What follows in an intricate web of deceit and such that’s a basic carbon copy of most legal thrillers.

Cher’s not bad, although she would fare far better the following year with Moonstruck. There is one scene in which she’s carjacked (early in the film, nonincidental to the plot) and cries out a very stilted and unbelievable EEK! Seriously, it sounded like a pretend-yell, as in “Eek, help, I’m being attacked by a killer beagle!” Even so, Cher was appealing and acceptable in the lead role.

Dennis Quaid was good as well, although his character wasn’t exactly deep. First of all, I can’t imagine anyone making a concerted effort to aid a lawyer in a case in which he or she is a juror – unless the juror has a vested interest in doing so. Second, the chemistry between Quaid and Cher was barely palpable – they looked like they’d be more comfortable playing siblings. Third, Quaid’s character manages to show up at all the right times, sometimes incredibly so. Made it all that much tougher to swallow.

Rounding out the notables in the cast are Joe Mantegna as the prosecutor and John Mahoney in a great role as the presiding judge.

Suspect would have been a winner if the writing had been a little tighter. I think movies in which there’s a strong female lead who’s about to nab the bad guys but OH NO they’re meaner and tougher and she goes to pieces. You know what I mean? You rarely see female leads that are strong emotionally, intellectually, and physically.



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