Paramount // 1988 // 110 Minutes // Rated R
Reviewed by Judge Patrick Naugle // May 8th, 2002
What are the limits of justice?
Jodie Foster has had one of the most successful and lucrative careers as a movie actress. She started as a child actor in such movies as One Little Indian and the notorious Taxi Driver, moved into '80s fare like Hotel New Hampshire and Five Corners, then saw her career soar with hits like The Silence of the Lambs (for which she won her second Academy Award), Contact, and the recent David Fincher hit Panic Room. Foster has even tried her hand at directing with such well respected films as Little Man Tate and Home For The Holidays. In 1988, Foster proved that she wasn't just a pretty face by winning her first Oscar as the hard-living rape victim Sarah Tobias in the critically acclaimed drama The Accused. Also starring Kelly McGillis (who at the time had stronger marquee value than Foster), The Accused pleads its case for the first time on DVD care of Paramount Home Entertainment.
The American legal system comes under intense scrutiny when Sarah Tobias (Foster) is gang raped at The Mill, a local tavern in upstate Washington. One night while "having a good time," Sarah is thrown onto a pinball machine and brutally raped by some local patrons looking to score with anyone they can get their paws on. Fleeing the scene, Sarah runs to the police where she is paired up with Kathryn Murphy, the Deputy District Attorney for Birchfield County. After unsuccessfully prosecuting her attackers, Sarah and Kathryn go after the onlookers and spectators who fueled the rape and did nothing to stop it. The courtroom will soon become a battleground as Sarah takes on not only the leering and egging customers, but also our legal system as well!
If you can believe it, there was a time when Jodie Foster was just a mediocre star that didn't command big bucks or taut scripts. That all started to change with her gripping role in The Accused. The movie was directed by Jonathan Kaplan, who also helmed a TV version of Truman Capote's book "In Cold Blood" and the thriller Unlawful Entry. While today the film retains a sort of "movie-of-the-week" feel (sorry folks, just being honest), it's still a gripping morality tale about booze, bars, and the bad things that happen when people get horny.
Of course, the centerpiece of this film is Foster's gritty portrayal of a down-and-out woman who lives in a trailer park and spends her night "taking the edge off" with multiple shots of tequila. Foster deservedly won an Oscar for this role, a part that required her to be continuously raped on a pinball machine by a bunch of thugs who all look as if their names are Billy Bob. Foster displays a fierce independence in Sarah Tobias while still retaining some softness that makes you feel bad for the cards life has dealt her (let's face it, she doesn't seem to have a lot going for her, including a buttnut of a boyfriend and some pretty shoddy friends). Kelly McGillis, now an official part of the VH1's "Where Are They Now?" club, is also exceptional as Sarah's defender. By the point McGillis had racked up some powerful movie credential points with her roles in hits like Top Gun and the Harrison Ford thriller Witness. While McGillis sometimes comes off as unnaturally cold, her performances is a great compliment to Foster's riveting display of acting.
Something I really admired about The Accused is that it doesn't shy away from looking at some very tough issues. The big question the film brings up has to do with spectators of a rape and are they engaging in a criminal act just by watching and cheering on the assault? On one hand, they did nothing physically wrong -- it would be like watching from a street while a guy robs a TV store. You certainly didn't take the merchandise...but you certainly didn't prevent it from happening. Not that I'm comparing rape to stealing TVs. Because I'm not. Uh, let's just move on, shall we?
While the lead actors are very good, the supporting cast sometimes suffers from some over-the-top or unrealistic acting. The real perpetrator of this is Leo Rossi (every cheesy B-movie ever made) as one of the bar room spectators. He snarls, he sneers, he acts generally unpleasant to anyone around him. As is often the case, the bad guys are often portrayed as super bad -- in other words, not one single solitary good bone in their sleazy bodies. In fact, you never really get a feel for any of the accused criminals. This is basically a one sided argument by the filmmakers. Not that I think the criminals were right on any level. Or that they should have been given more time than the other characters. Or that they are right. Uh...let's just move on.
I recommend The Accused for those who enjoy heavy duty drama. Some of the scenes are a little hard to watch (especially the rape scene), and a few of the hairdos are monumentally stuck in a 1980s time warp. Otherwise, this a great film with a great performance by Foster.
The Accused is presented for the first time in 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen. Paramount has done a very good job at cleaning up this print and making sure that it appears crisp, clean, and very well saturated. The color schemes and black levels all appear bright and even with only the slightest amount of grain showing up in the image. Overall, this is a fine looking presentation by Paramount.
The audio is presented in a newly remixed Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack in English, as well as Dolby 2.0 Surround in English and French. Lately Paramount has been doing a lot of 5.1 remixes on their release with various results. Some movies just don't require them (uh, did anyone feel that Andre really would have been missing something without it?), but some movies actually benefit from a richer sound mix. The Accused is somewhere in the middle. There are some nice effects utilized in this mix (mainly with composer Brad Fiedel's music score), though the bulk of this soundtrack comes from the front and center speakers. Overall, this decent soundtrack is free of any excessive hiss or distortion. Also included on this disc are English subtitles.
Well, I guess we can thank the DVD gods that Paramount included a theatrical trailer on this disc. Lately they've been putting out bare bones discs only, skimping on everything including the trailers.
The Accused is well worth the time for those who enjoy courtroom dramas. The performances are good, the story is intriguing and the hairdos...well, that's a whole 'nother beast. While Paramount's work on this disc isn't grand, it's not too shabby either.
The Accused is acquitted on all charges, though Paramount is slapped with a fine for their outrageous pricing policy. Case dismissed!
Review content copyright © 2002 Patrick Naugle; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2014 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
* 1.85:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround (English)
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround (French)
Running Time: 110 Minutes
Release Year: 1988
MPAA Rating: Rated R
* Theatrical Trailer