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500 Five-Star: The Accused (1988)

June 12, 2011

Like many of the films I’ll be reviewing as part of the 500 project, The Accused is one of those films I have wanted to watch for years and never got around to.  I thought Jodie Foster (who won the Best Actress Oscar for her role) would be excellent.  She was.  I thought the film would be excellent.  It wasn’t.

I have to be honest, and say I have no idea how The Accused received anywhere near a five-star rating.  The story is interesting, and one that to the best of my knowledge hadn’t been done in Hollywood before.  Drunken girl with a bad reputation is gangraped in a bar, and the guys who do it get minimal punishment as a result of a legal system which sees the victim as an ‘unreliable witness’.  Stop it right there, focus on the fight for justice against the rapists, and you have a fascinating film.  Instead The Accused takes a melodramatic swerve, as the victim’s lawyer, due to her guilt at not getting justice for her client, goes after a group of men who egged on the rapists.  Doing this is supposed to be the end of her career, though that is a story thread which ultimately leads nowhere, and all it really means is we get multiple ‘powerful’ scenes in which Foster and the lawyer (played by Kelly McGillis) fire supposedly inspiring or emotional statements at eachother.  Foster manages to escape unscathed, her tragic character just about sympathetic enough to justify the cliches, but McGillis is less lucky.  Everything about the film just feels too overblown and overdramatic, from the ‘dun-dun-dun’ of the soundtrack to the unnecessarily complex story, and it’s really a shame because there was so much potential for a great film.  The actual rape scene, for example, is excellently shot, perfectly capturing the horror that Sarah has to endure.  The first half hour, as we see Sarah’s suffering and the conflict faced by her lawyer behind her back, is also engrossing.  Sadly it all goes downhill from there.


Jodie Foster’s performance is five-star.  The film is nowhere near.


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