Physical Evidence Review

Physical Evidence
When drunken cop Joe Paris (Reynolds) is framed for a murder he didn’t commit, he's forced to pull himself together and clear his name.

by Kim Newman |
Published on
Release Date:

08 Sep 1989

Running Time:

99 minutes



Original Title:

Physical Evidence

A blackmailer-cum-gangster who scores high on everyone's Least Favourite Criminal list is gruesomely killed, and it would seem most convenient all round if the murder were to be pinned on Joe Paris (Reynolds), an on-suspension cop with a drink problem, a discipline problem, a messy apartment problem and a violence problem. Jenny Hudson (Russell), an ambitious lawyer whose office must need double-doors to judge by the width of her shoulder pads and who has evidently seen Jagged Edge 50 or 60 times, takes the case and tries to prove Joe's innocence.

Unfortunately, Joe has had one of those mental blackouts about the evening of the murder that only ever crop up in contrived mysteries like this. Meanwhile, Jenny is breaking up with her horrible yuppie boyfriend — the HYB became a stock character in late '80s movies (Crocodile Dundee, Die Hard) — and Joe is torn between chatting up his lawyer and tracking down the real killer.

Physical Evidence comes a long way behind Jagged Edge in the lady-lawyer-and-dodgy-male-client stakes, and even tags along a bit after Suspect in its courtroom dramatics. Russell is potentially a more appealing heroine that Glenn Close or Cher, but here is done in by a draggy script, a contrivance-ridden plot and bland production. The film does a bit of role reversal by making Reynolds a total wash-out as a hero — perhaps on the evidence of his direct-to-video career of late (did anyone go to see Striker Ace, Rent-A-Cop, Malone, Stick or Heat?) — and forcing Russell to take on the baddies in the final shoot-out, but there is no appreciable screen chemistry between the mismatched duo.

Director Michael Crichton (Westworld, Coma), usually a science-fiction specialist with a thriller touch, does well by the jokey but unsettling opening in which a potential suicide discovers the dead body of the gangster while trying to hang himself from a bridge, but there's nothing in the rest of this Canadian-shot, inflated B-movie to match that.

The verdict on this film is 'guilty as charged' and we hereby decree that it will be taken off at a cinema near you and removed to a place of video dealership where it shall be crammed into a box until it is forgotten.
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