Synopsis: A female lawyer takes an accused wife-murderer as a client, but finds herself morally compelled to betray him one way or another.
Stars: Rebecca De Mornay, Don Johnson, Jack Warden, Stephen Lang
Director: Sidney Lumet
Running Length: 107 minutes
TMMM Score: (3/10)
Review: Blame this 1993 chuckle fest on the success of Jagged Edge. The so-so 1985 thriller gave way to numerous film and made for television movies featuring smart women (usually lawyers) making dumb decisions regarding shady men. With the rise of the female executive in the late 80’s and early 90’s, Hollywood was kept busy with these formulaic thrillers that thankfully petered out by the end of the decade. Looking back at Guilty as Sin now, it’s hard to think of it anything other than high farce although I remember seeing it in the theaters and thinking it was not half-bad.
De Mornay has always been a reliable actor but has struggled to break through to A list status. Her work as legal eagle Jennifer Haines in this belies her natural talent though it does capture her striking beauty. At the beginning of the film she’s shown to be an ethical, analytical, and confident attorney in a large law firm handling big time clients. Then David Edgar Greenhill (Johnson) walks into her life needing representation after his wife takes a leap from the balcony of her high rise apartment. How Jennifer can for one second think he’s innocent is the first bit of info you need to get over. (Oh, spolier alert…he did it. Though if you read the title you’d know that)
Soon David is pretty much stalking Jennifer as his trial date approaches. She tries to have herself removed but for reasons that exist only because this is a movie, she’s denied the right to quit. Never mind that David pulls a knife on her, follows her, and threatens her in public on more than one occasion. Maybe it’s the Canadian justice system…even though the movie desperately tries to get you to believe it’s set in Chicago.
Johnson is pretty bad here…though he has never been known for subtlety or skill even he seems at one point to finally get he’s in a dog of a film and decides to ratchet up the crazy dial. If he isn’t softly saying his lines he’s shouting them REAL LOUD with neither approaches having any real effect on the person on the receiving end. The film is filled with forgettable supporting players and scenes that have no place in a movie directed by the man that gave us Dog Day Afternoon, The Verdict, Network, and The Wiz (hey, I liked it!)
One contrivance after another leads to Jennifer making a serious miscalculation that sets into motion the quickie ending. In the span of 10 minutes lots of stuff happens…leading to the howler of an ending that defies the laws of gravity and nature.
From the head shaking early 90’s décor and fashion to the courtroom that looks to be made entirely of marble this is a movie that plays by its own rules without any fact checking. Guilty as Sin may be a nice guilty pleasure movie…but the pleasure won’t be yours when all is said and done.