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ACCUSED, THE
Reviewed November 11th, 2002 by David Nusair

 

Watching The Accused now, in the 21st century, itís hard not to make comparisons to Law and Order (or any of its many spin-offs). Though thereís no question in our minds that a rape has taken place, the majority of the film follows the investigation with the last 45-minutes devoted to the trial. If not for the spectacular acting by Jodie Foster, The Accused would probably play like a made-for-TV movie today.

As the movie opens, Sarah (Foster) has just been raped by three men while a large crowd of drunk watched and cheered. Assigned to her case is Kathryn (Kelly McGillis), an assistant D.A. whoís sure the case is a loser because Sarah was drunk and stoned at the time. She agrees to a plea bargain for the three rapists, but soon after decides to go after the spectators.

It doesnít exactly take a genius to guess how the case is going to turn out (why else would a movie have been made about this true story?), so the film instead has to rely on the acting to propel the story forward. And thatís really what sets The Accused apart from the plethora of TV shows devoted to this sort of format: Fosterís performance. The character of Sarah is incredibly complex, with her white-trash demeanor and not-entirely-likable persona, but Foster nevertheless turns her into someone we care about. McGillis is fine as Kathryn, though the character remains woefully underdeveloped (her sudden transformation from calculating career woman to caring social advocate is haphazard at best).

The real problem with The Accused, besides the familiar layout of the plot, are the completely over-the-top evil male characters. Venerable character actor Leo Rossi gives an incredibly one-dimensional performance as one of the boorish spectators, culminating in an unintentionally hilarious confrontation with Sarah in a parking lot (imagine the most inappropriate way to speak to a woman, quadruple it, and youíll have a fairly good idea as to how the meeting plays out). Likewise, Iím not sure if I entirely buy the idea that a bar full of men would cheer on a brutal gang rape. Obviously, there are a lot of despicable guys out there (the number of which no doubt triples in hillbilly country, where The Accused takes place), but really, not one man wouldíve felt compelled to either interfere or call the police? Now, The Accused is based on a true story, so itís entirely possible thatís exactly the way it happened, but somehow it just felt overblown and exaggerated to me. Perhaps if the rape hadnít been re-enacted (which wouldíve worked fine, really), the whole thing wouldnít have seemed quite so over-the-top.

But the movieís certainly worth seeing, if only for Fosterís award winning performance. Though her climactic courtroom speech screams Oscar bait, itís nevertheless exceptionally riveting. Fosterís acting makes up for the hit-you-over-the-head-with-a-hammer moralizing and preaching, so on that level, the film works.

Audio: The Accused is presented with a DD 2.0 soundtrack, and itís effective. It delivers the dialogue with accuracy, while ambient sounds are minimal.

Video: The 1.85:1 anamorphic transfer thatís included is just as acceptable, if not exactly special. There arenít any discernable film artifacts, so for that alone, this is a good transfer.

Extras: A trailer.

Conclusion: The Accused contains a fine performance by Foster, and the storyline is interesting enough to overlook the more heavy-handed aspects of the film.

 

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