A Close Call with a Murderer…
Jeff Bridges plays Jack Forrester, the main suspect for murdering his rich wife and maid in a brutal manner. Glenn Close as his defence lawyer who falls for him.
Jagged Edge 1985 Trailer | Jeff Bridges | Glenn Close, Trailer Chan and photos © Columbia Pictures
Many neo-noirs and noir movies feature a law enforcer – be it a police officer, detective or criminal lawyer – falling in love with the enigmatic, prime suspect. This suspect may or may not have murdered their loved one.
In one of my recent reviews The Paradine Case (1947), defence barrister Anthony Keane (Gregory Peck) fell for his client, a possible femme fatale, Mrs Paradine (Alida Valli). This is in the Hitchcock directed courtroom drama.
Back in the 1980s in a neo-noir, these two more traditional role and genders were observed in another crime and courtroom thriller. Jagged Edge (1985) set in San Francisco, is a film that successfully reversed those stereotypical film noir genders.
The story features a homme fatale and a lawyer with a haunting past. It stars actress Glenn Close as lawyer Teddy Barnes along with Jeff Bridges as the enigmatic prime suspect, Jack Forrester, an apparently devastated man who may have brutally killed his wife.
The film starts one dark stormy night, it’s raining heavily as we follow an unseen man climb the stairs and head to the bedroom of a secluded beach house. A John Barry score accompanies this with this music is possibly inspired by a Hitchcock movie. This man savagely kills the rich socialite, Page Forrester.
He’s dressed head to foot in black, and Darlin’ Husband comments how this is the darkest advert for a certain brand of a box of chocolates that he’s ever seen. Differences are instead of leaving said chocolates with a note, then scaling down the building with the rope he’s brought, he ties the victim to the bed. He kills her brutally with a serrated knife and writes “Bitch” on the wall with her blood.
The cops come to the murder scene en masse headed by ambitious District Attorney, Thomas Krasny (Peter Coyote) in a Macintosh (but minus a trilby). He’s met by a colleague, Frank Martin (Lance Henriksen) who tells him that there’s another victim, the Forresters’ murdered maid, Consuela Martinez.
Jack Forrester (Jeff Bridges) – Page’s husband – suffered a head injury and was knocked out at the time of the crime. This injury was allegedly inflicted by the intruder. However, Kasey doesn’t buy his story, believing the wound was self-inflicted and arrests the still grieving Jack.
There are only Jack’s, his wife’s and the maid’s prints found on the scene. It’s a done deal according to the Krasny led team. After giving Jack a grilling, a witness tells of a knife fitting the description of the murder weapon seen in Jack’s locker at the country club, and he’s the only beneficiary for all her assets including a publishing empire.
Jack Forrester asks one-time criminal lawyer Teddy Barnes (Glenn Close) to defend him because she’s a woman, has won all her court cases to date and she understands Krasny’s tactics. We learn Teddy gave up her work as a criminal lawyer four years previously.
She worked for Krasny then and knows Krasny wrongly prosecuted a suspect, Henry Styles. Krasney had discovered some evidence that would have proved Styles’ innocence. However, Krasny kept quiet about this information, so Teddy resigned.
There’s also a bad feeling between Krasny and Jack Forrester. Jack as a newspaper editor had written about Krasny’s underhand tactics in the courtroom. Nowadays, Teddy’s a loving single mother to two kids and she has a good relationship with their father, her ex-husband.
Teddy meets with Jack and takes on the case, as she believes he is innocent. She stresses that should she change her feelings about his innocence, she’ll drop the case. Teddy then learns that Styles has killed himself in prison.
She goes to his funeral, but his family don’t make her feel welcome. Teddy visits a private detective, Sam Ransom (Robert Loggia) who worked with her and Kasey. He left his job at the same time as her and for the same reasons.
After meeting with Jack, he appears keen to have Teddy on his side as she believes he’s innocent. He’s attractive, enigmatic and quite charming (with the director reportedly telling Bridges just to be himself).
Teddy takes him to the scene of the crime to talk of his movements on the night of the murder. Jack is visibly shaken and tearful, and appears to find this re-enactment difficult – this a total contrast to the smooth-talking character we met at the start. However after Teddy and Jack spend more time together, she continues to believe in him and his story.
Teddy and Jack go horse riding together, share a Chinese takeaway, he talks more about him and he learns more about her. They grow closer and it appears that Teddy is attracted to him. Jack appears to fall for her too. He passionately kisses her one night, after dropping her off home after a meeting. She spends more time on the case, and less time with her children. Teddy later sleeps with Jack.
At work, Teddy has been getting anonymous letters with information about the case, these notes all appear from the same 1942 Corona typewriter and all are distinguishable with a raised “t”. The assessments from psychiatrists, lie detectors and more suggest Jack’s innocence. Yet, both the psychiatrist and Ransom warn Teddy of a manipulating side to Jack’s character.
As the court case begins a number of the prosecution’s witnesses are dismissed after Teddy discredits them. After questioning these witnesses, it appears that family members believe he’s innocent, as the Forresters were not headed for a divorce and Jack wouldn’t betray his wife (or her him).
Later witnesses reveal that Jack and Page had short-lived affairs. On hearing about how Jack’s extra-marital relationship came about and progressed, Teddy is reminded of her and Jack’s relationship. She now wants to drop the case thinking Jack’s guilty… but is he??
I enjoyed watching the acting talent in this movie, Glenn Close was believable in her role as a single mum and she shone in the court scenes. She came over as an efficient, direct and professional lawyer at the start.
It did feel that her love affair with her client seemed out of place with her “ethical” character despite her obvious attraction to him. Her character had great father-daughter chemistry with Loggia’s Sam who seemed quite paternal towards her and he was a good sounding board to her character’s thoughts and fears.
I adored Loggia’s Sam Ransom character, his down to earth character seemed more genuine, intuitive (about both Teddy and Jack) and credible both in and out of the courtroom. Loggia gave a solid, supportive performance and I was happy to read he had been nominated for Best Supporting Actor at the Academy Awards for his role. I would have been happy to see more scenes from his and Jeff Bridges’ character and less attention to those other less important or overemphasised parts of the plot.
Peter Coyote was initially portrayed as a slimy and shady character and this one in which he excelled beautifully. He was convincing at appearing villainous and this role a sharp contrast to his more caring character in ET The Extra-Terrestrial (1982). However I felt that too much of Jagged Edge concentrated on his back story, this overemphasised plotline could have easily been summed up in a wee montage or flashback.
Jeff Bridges was as Jack at his most charming and enigmatic, yet he also gave a heartbreaking performance when his character revisited the crime scene. However, I was surprised at his character not taking the stand to be questioned during his own trial which would have added greatly to the suspense and theme of the film. I would have liked to see his character more fully developed in this way.
It was frustratingly only hearsay on-screen that his character was manipulative one and that he had passed the lie detector test. Had both these scenes been seen these would have added to the evidence that the viewer needed in judging this character for themselves. Having seen Jeff Bridges in other roles, I’m sure he would have been convincingly enigmatic and not give away the truth of his character in both these scenes.
As a suspect, Bridges was hard to decipher with those many twists and turns in the story. One minute he seemed distressed at his wife’s death, and you are convinced he’s innocent. The next he was chatting up, snogging, then in bed with his lawyer and you question this man’s guilt.
He also appeared to function really well as the grieving and “shattered” widower, in court his hair was always coiffed impeccably and he never looked totally devastated as evidence given.
He didn’t even sob uncontrollably at the funeral, and even seemed unshaken when he told his work about his future absence. His character seemed quite bizarre for a man after such a horrific crime towards his wife, as an even warmer side to his character seen when he spoke about his love for horses.
It was interesting that Jack seemed the only suspect questioned in this double homicide. The family maid was also cruelly killed, but her murder was surprisingly not mentioned as much. More shockingly, no suspects were arrested in relation to her murder and no one questioned relating to her involvement in the murder during the trial.
Even as a lawyer, Teddy didn’t ask Jack about this woman apart from briefly after they returned to the crime scene. It could have been interesting if a plotline in the storyline had linked the maid’s murder to Page’s death. Or even if Page was murdered, to distract from the maid’s untimely death. However, this film will lead to a surprising and shocking outcome.
Interestingly the director of this film considered Kathleen Turner and Michael Douglas for these roles. The role was also written with Jane Fonda as the leading lady. This film courtroom drama is now rumoured to be in line for a remake with Halle Berry. However, that’s all we know so far.. as your guess is as good as mine as to who’ll play Jeff Bridges role, as at the moment it’s just a stab in the dark…
Weeper Rating: 0/10
Handsqueeze Rating: 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂🙂 🙂 🙂10
Hulk Rating: /10
This post was added to Thoughts All Sorts Jeff Bridges Blogathon. Glenn Close appears in both The Big Chill and Mars Attacks. Jeff Bridges appeared in K-PAX. Peter Coyote appears in ET: Extra-Terrestrial. Robert Loggia was reviewed in Charlie’s Angels, Big and Prizzis Honor. Lance Henriksen appears in Omen II. Leigh Taylor-Young appeared in Dallas.