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New Tom Selleck prison drama is utterly predicatable


Directed by Peter Yates.

Starring Tom Selleck and

F. Murray Abraham.

Opens today at the Cleveland Circle.


JIMMIE RAINWOOD'S (TOM SELLECK) peaceful and comfortable life is shattered one night when two narcotics cops mistake his home for that of a drug dealer. The reckless and sleazy cops, who keep a portion of the drugs that they capture in order to deal the drugs themselves, happen to be the two cops with the highest criminal turn-in rate. The story they make up and their set-up is so convincing that a jury convicts the ever-innocent and self-righteous Tom Selleck to 12 years in prison. Jimmie Rainwood, believing in the power of law, refuses to take the advice of his lawyer and to plead guilty to possession of cocaine and endangering the lives of two policemen, thereby ensuring that the length of his undeserved sentence is twelve years rather than a mere six months.

Sent to a harrowing, maximum security prison, Jimmie quickly discovers that the rules he has lived by all his life do not help him survive inside. He is compelled to murder one of the criminals in order to establish respect and stature among the inmates. Veteran con Virgil Cane (F. Murray Abraham) helps him survive his sentence by teaching him the rules governing the life in prison. Jimmie is let out on parole three years later and is determined to take revenge on the two cops, who attempt to intimidate him and his wife, thereby undermining his desire to get his life and his peace back.

An Innocent Man is a film with inconsistent output. Tom Selleck plays on his media-image as the innocent man. He is basically good, innocent, and vulnerable, and is convincing in his role. It is interesting to see his weaknesses and his naivet'e.

The film is at its best in the scenes portraying life in prison and the ruthless attitudes of the prisoners. Abraham, whose performance as Salieri in Amadeus established for him an eminent place in the hearts of movie-goers, this time plays an ultra-cool inmate, thoroughly criminal, yet with a kind heart. Abraham brings stability to the film, whose characters' lives are jolted in one way or another.

The prison setting is overdone at places; the fellow inmates, on the other hand, are real and help create an atmosphere of authenticity. The rest of the movie is, unfortunately, directed like any other standard movie with criminals and cops. The denouement is hasty and utterly predictable. The script is by Larry Brothers, who dropped out of college to pursue his main interests, namely stories about drugs and crime. Therefore, some of the incidents reflect first-hand experiences. Despite his success with the scenes in prison, the storyline and its treatment after the parole lack originality. The score also does not add much to the film, although the camerawork is fine. This film is recommendable on account of Abraham's presence and its description of the prison life.