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The Accused

Few child actors successfully make the transition to lucrative adult careers in Hollywood, but Jodie Foster's blossoming from Taxi Driver, Freaky Friday, and Candleshoe to her defining role in The Silence of the Lambs (1991) hinges on one film — 1988's The Accused, where she turned in a gutty performance that proved those Disney movies were far in the past. Based on a true story, Foster stars as Sarah Tobias, a working-class woman in Birchfield County, Washington, who turns up in a hospital late one night claiming to have been gang-raped in a local bar. There's plenty of physical evidence — including cuts, bruises, and medical samples — but Deputy D.A. Kathryn Murphy (Kelly McGillis) knows right away that a conviction will be hard to get, since Sarah was drunk, stoned, and provocatively dressed. Believing her foremost task is to ensure the three alleged rapists are sent to jail, Kathryn negotiates a plea bargain with their attorneys for felony convictions and five-year stretches. However, they stand to be paroled in as few as nine months, and they did not plead guilty to any sort of sexual assault. Enraged, Sarah confronts Kathryn, and — after a serious blowup with the District Attorney — Kathryn decides to prosecute three more men on felony solicitation for encouraging the barroom attack, which has only a marginal chance of success but will put the rape on record for good. Helmed by journeyman director Jonathan Kaplan (Heart Like a Wheel, Love Field), The Accused is less of a courtroom drama than an interpersonal one, although it does feature enough legal minutiae to frame an interesting judicial premise — the idea that those who entreat felony activity must share the burden of guilt with the criminals themselves. But the core of the story is built around two different women — McGillis, as the determined prosecutor who understands the realities of plea-bargaining, but is willing to press a difficult case when she knows she has the moral high ground; and Foster, who struggles with her own self-worth in the face of psychological trauma and personal isolation. And although McGillis earned top-billing for the picture (in the wake of high-profile turns in Top Gun and Witness), the film belongs to Foster, who comes up with a rich, nuanced performance as the simple New Jersey-born girl with few ambitions and an interest in astrology, whose world is turned upside down not only by a violent assault, but also by her stubborn, deeply ingrained sense of right and wrong. Paramount's DVD release of The Accused features a clean anamorphic transfer (1.85:1) with audio in Dolby Digital 5.1 (English) and Dolby 2.0 Surround (English, French). English subtitles, trailer. Keep-case.
—JJB



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