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Guilty as Sin Review

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Successfully keeping her attractive murderous client out of jail, a beautiful lawyer finds herself the victim of a smear campaign after her newly released client spreads rumours that they had an affair. The situation becomes so bad she begins to find evidence for his crime so she can send him back to jail.

★★★★★

Much as it grieves a lifelong fan of director Sidney Lumet to say so, his latest in a long line of legal dramas is an atrocious misfire. One unbelievable thriller (Close To Eden) may be viewed as an aberration. Two in succession suggests a worrying lapse in judgement. Initially this looks remarkably familiar, in a Jagged Edge kind of way.

Courtroom tigress De Mornay (who comes equipped with her very own paternal private eye in Jack Warden) undertakes the defence of devilishly sexy wastrel Johnson, charged with the cold-blooded murder of his wife. The question of guilt or innocence, however, is speedily resolved: hedunnit, and so cleverly there's no evidence against him.

The film then concerns itself with a novel but inexplicable scenario in which the despicable fellow devises elaborate ruses to persuade all her associates and all his rich lady friends that attorney and client are having a torrid affair, Why? Well the only explanation forthcoming is that it's "something we have to do together." As Johnson steps up his kooky campaign, De Mornay fights back by planting false evidence to incriminate him for the crime he did commit. Preposterous plots don't make a bad thriller and this certainly has its unusual twists, but one feels utterly cheated when the only reasoning behind them is, apparently, psychosis.

What undoes this effort is its unintentional daftness. Characters keep "explaining" things unnaturally to each other as if recapping the story so far, De Mornay is laden with all the cliches of the ruthless sexpot screen lawyer, an unattractive lack of ethics and a great lump of a boyfriend (Stephen Lang), while Johnson is embarrassing, his womanising killer ranting and crying with all the subtlety of Bette Davis' Baby Jane. Up to a point one may be prepared to overlook a lack of sense. But a lack of suspense, sympathy or scruples, no.

After Joe Esztherhas's successful Jagged Edge, Sidney Lumet jumped on the bandwagon and made his own supposedly sexy courtoom thriller. Although sadly he didn't pick his material very well and consequently we're left with the mess that is Guilty as Sin.

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