Director Alan J. Pakula (The Parallax View, All the President's Men, Klute) yet again offers a study of paranoia in this exceedingly well-made version of Scott Turow's best-selling novel. Presumed Innocent is an ensemble courtroom drama that offers uniformly fine performances, ranging from Brian Dennehy's bullying, burnt-out chief prosecutor to Paul Winfield's street-smart judge. It is class from top to bottom. Pakula paints with somber burgundy hues and restrained performances an understated, adult portrait of a morally infected universe. It's ironic that every major character in Pakula's world of corruption and twisted relationships suffers from a physical or moral defect. Literally, no one escapes untainted. Especially noteworthy is Raul Julia's quiet, compelling performance as defense attorney Sandy Stern. Capable of booming performances, Julia underplays terrifically as a man whose eyes quietly prey for weakness. Like Brando in The Godfather, it's a performance entirely of gestures and nuance that offers glimmers of his coiled power. If there's a real weakness in Presumed Innocent, it is in Harrison Ford's performance as a prosecutor accused of murder. Ford gives himself a bad haircut and plays his character's intensity and explosive temper well, but lacks enough ambiguity to make you really believe that he could be guilty of murder. Still, like The Russia House, which was also made in 1990, Presumed Innocent is an ensemble piece that turns a well-written novel into a very fine and compelling film.
by Nick Sambides, Jr. review