Thursday, January 31, 2013
(October 1985, U.S.)
JAGGED EDGE, a courtroom thriller, was written by Joe Eszterhas, who also wrote BASIC INSTINCT (1992). I start by immediately pointing this out because there are similarities in the man's story structure of the prior film that would become even more infamous in the latter film. In JAGGED EDGE, the story focuses heavily on the specific knife used in the brutal murder of a young and wealthy California woman. In BASIC INSTINCT, the murder weapon of the ice pick was practically the star of the film. JAGGED EDGE, like BASIC INSTINCT also raises the the point of just how far a person will allow themselves to go romantically and sexually with someone who may very well be willing to kill them. And while I'd never compare Glenn Close to Sharon Stone in the sexual department (not even in FATAL ATTRACTION two years later), she does give a compelling, dramatic performance as Teddy Barnes who chooses to defend the man accused of murdering his wife, Jack Forrester (played by Jeff Bridges), a role I doubt Sharon Stone could have pulled off just as effectively. What she doesn't choose to do, but traditional cliche demands that she does, is fall in love with her client and accused murderer.
By today's standards of television, the simple murder mystery of "did he or didn't he?" and the sinful relationship that follows is likley no different than any two-hour episode of LAW & ORDER, CSI or any of the hundreds of made-for-TV movies you may find on the Lifetime TV network. But this was 1985, mind you, so the window of opportunity for such legal dramas to play out on the big screen was still very much in demand. Jeff Bridges and Glenn Close gave it suitable star quality, and after the mega-blockbuster success of RETURN OF THE JEDI (1983), director Richard Marquand could have likely made any film he damn well wanted to! I certainly give him noble credit for moving onto a completely different type of film after doing an episode of STAR WARS, unlike Irivn Kirshner who moved onto James Bond and a ROBOCOP sequel and George Lucas, who unfortunately, refused to let go of his "favorite toy" for decades of his career.
Beyond the traditional courtroom drama and surprise witness testimonies that one would come to expect from such a film, there is the rather intruiging element of these anonymous and mysterious type-written notes which not only declare Jack's innocence, but also point the investigating finger to another suspect and another crime which took place eighteen months prior to the one the film focuses on. These notes seek to exonerate Jack as a murder suspect and eventually get him off, free to pursue a life of happiness with his lawyer. On the other hand, though, a film like this counts on the element of the surprise ending and the viewer isn't meant to know "did he or didn't he?" until the very last moment when the killer is shot dead and his black mask is removed to reveal his face.
This time I'll be kind and not give away the final resolution for the benefit of those who have never seen this film. I will point out, however, one flaw in the story's plotting that I've never been able to let go of. Here we're dealing with a killer who's been very crafty, very percise and very diabolical about every move he's made in order to get away with his crime, even the carefully-planned use of the anonymous notes. Why then, after all that perfectly-conceived planning and execution, is the typewriter used for the notes so sloppily hidden on a closet shelf where anyone could likely stumble on it?? Is the audience's suspension of disbelief supposed to excuse the fact that the brilliant killer made THE one stupid mistake that would inevitably get him discovered? Or was the killer, perhaps, allowing for the legal facts of "double jeopardy" for which it wouldn't even matter once he'd been legally acquitted for the crime? Either way, he obviously decided he had to kill his lover in the end...or try to, anyway.
Favorite line or dialogue:
Teddy Barnes: "Did your mother ever wash your mouth out with soap and water?"
Sam Ransom: "Yeah, but it didn't do any fucking good."