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Under Suspicion

Under Suspicion is a recent entry in the police interrogation genre, a small sub-genre of the policier. Such films are most often existential studies in psychology, identity and will, and usually are French at that. In fact, this film is based on Claude Miller's 1981 Garde à vue, which itself was based on John Wainwright's novel Brainwash. With Under Suspicion, director Stephen Hopkins (who helmed the recent Lost in Space and one of the Nightmare on Elm Street sequels) expands on his source material, even though the story occurs over just four hours. While the city of San Juan, Puerto Rico, celebrates the Festival of San Sebastian and a fundraiser for hurricane disaster-relief is underway, prominent tax lawyer Henry Hearst (Gene Hackman) is questioned in the police station across the street by his long-time acquaintance Victor Benezet (Morgan Freeman). Despite his good reputation, Hearst is suspected of being the man who has killed two young girls on the island, even though ultimately his role in the case has more to do with his strained relationship with his glamorous wife Chantal (Monica Bellucci). Director Hopkins and credited writers Thomas Provost and W. Peter Iliff create an interesting contrast between Hearst and Victor in Under Suspicion, both in their private and professional lives, and Hopkins employs a fluid and rather fascinating editing style that shows the influence of both Nicolas Roeg and Oliver Stone, which keeps the film visually interesting. Quietly intense performances come from the noteworthy cast as well — Hackman has been nominated for five Oscars and won two, and Freeman has been nominated three times (and should have won at least once). Thomas Jane, as Victor's impetuous associate, somewhat recreates the relationship between the Freeman and Brad Pitt characters in Se7en (and, by the way, actor Jane looks almost exactly like director Hopkins). Columbia TriStar's DVD release provides both anamorphic widescreen (1.85:1) and full-frame transfers of this colorful film, with audio in Dolby Digital 5.1 or Dolby 2.0 Surround. Also includes an audio commentary with Hopkins and Freeman (but not Hackman, even though he executive-produced the film), and while Hopkins is good at highlighting some of the editing techniques and location problems on the 38-day shoot, Freeman — in contrast to his contributions to the Se7en: Platinum Series DVD — is something of a disappointment, interesting on character development, but too often unable to summon the words to say anything. Also on board is a 10-minute "making-of" featurette, which has the usual abundance of clips from the film, but also some interesting comments from Hackman about his interest in the project. Theatrical trailer, talent files. Keep-case.
—D.K. Holm

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