Above Suspicion


Lately so many suspense movies are remakes of 1950's films noir or a mix of two Hitchcock plots. (See "BODY DOUBLE".) This under-valued 1994 thriller stands on its own thanks to the superb acting of Joe Mantegna. Like RED ROCK WEST, it is superior to several media-hyped films yet it went directly to HBO and video stores.

DEMPSEY CAIN (Reeve), an ingenious homicide detective (he even gets fingerprints off concrete) is so confident that he tells his son, "the power you have to direct your mind is your greatest power." There lies the setup for plot twists to come. Not all of his peers worship Dempsey, particularly street-smart ALLAN RHINEHART (Mantegna), who's been passed over for promotion once too often and envies Dempsey's perfect life. "The captain's got such a hard-on for Dempsey it makes me sick," he complains. But Allan doesn't know that Dempsey's gorgeous wife, GAIL(Cattrall), sick of Dempsey's perfectionism, is playing house with his brother, NICK (Kerr), who is also a cop. Nick is an irresponsible screwup that Dempsey has to keep cleaning up after--his duty as an older brother.

When Nick forgets to shut off his beeper during a drug raid, Dempsey ends up getting shot and confined to a wheelchair for life. That's not the life he can bear so he announces to Nick and Gail that he has a million dollar life insurance policy that won't pay squat if he commits suicide--he wants them to kill him and make it look like he interrupted a burglary. With his detective background he has the tiniest details planned so they won't get caught. When they reluctantly agree plans go awry, the plot twists, and ALLAN sets out to get revenge by proving that it was no more an ordinary burglary than the Watergate breakin.

Although the final showdown between ALLAN & DEMPSEY seems a bit implausible (maybe Gordon Liddy taught Dempsey everything he knows), the characters were believable and memorable. I favor Joe Mantegna's character--the underdog obsessively trying to prove that everybody's hero doesn't deserve their respect, which was basically the movie's theme. I don't want to ruin the ending for you, but let's say they could have cast O. J. Simpson in the lead if Christopher Reeve turned it down.
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