MPAA Rating: R/ Genre: Neo-Noir Legal Thriller/ Stars: Glenn Close, Jeff Bridges, Peter Coyote, Robert Loggia, John Dehner, Karen Austin, Guy Boyd, Marshall Colt, Louis Giambalvo, Ben Hammer, Lance Henriksen, Sanford Jensen, James Karen, Leigh Taylor-Young, William Allen Young, John Clark, Michael Dorn, Diane Erickson, Maria Mayenzet/ Runtime: 108 minutes
If there is one thing that I have consistently found myself immensely appreciating about the genre of movie magic that is the mystery-thriller genre, it is when a slice of cinema in this iconic and time-honored genre is able to accomplish a distinct pair of things. Those things would be not only being able to play an individual who watches the film and their various emotions like a fiddle in the best manner possible, but also to make a slice of cinema that will function as a machine that will drop clue after clue in front of us whilst also all but daring each and every one of us to try and figure out the proverbial whodunit before the characters can. At the same time however, it is also worth mentioning that this machine must be so effective and on point that we aren’t able to figure everything out until the slice of cinema is willing to let us figure everything out. The reason I bring this up is because the slice of cinema that I am reviewing today, 1985’s entry in the legal mystery-thriller genre Jagged Edge, is a slice of cinema that is a perfect example of both of these concepts in action. Sure some of the distinct twists and curves in this slice of cinema might borderline on downright implausible, but when a slice of cinema is this phenomenally well-made behind the camera and the cast in front of the camera all manage to bring no more and no less than their respective A-games then the end result is a slice of cinema that is taut and engaging in the best way possible to say nothing of being one that I promise you will have you guessing right up until the very end.
The plot is as follows: Jagged Edge gets its riveting puzzler of a narrative underway as we witness in the middle of a dark and stormy night an enigmatic masked man break into the beachside manor of a San Francisco newspaper heiress by the name of Page Forrester and swiftly and brutally butcher both her and the maid with a jagged edged hunting knife (hence the title of the film) and then leave their bodies for the police and an Assistant District Attorney by the name of Thomas Krasny’s investigative team to find them. However when the ensuing investigation not only turns up that a knife matching the murder weapon was found in a club locker of the victim’s husband, one Jack Forrester, but that Jack also stood to inherit all of the deceased’s assets and money in the event of her demise, we see that Krasny decides that this is more than enough to convict and as a result Jack is promptly and swiftly charged with murder. Of course it should also come as no surprise therefore to learn that Jack decides to seek the assistance of a legal firm of attorneys who he has a long time working relationship with. There is only problem: this firm is one that doesn’t deal in criminal matters; merely only matters of a corporate nature. Undeterred however, and really not wanting to lose Jack as a client, we see the firm reach out to the only person on their staff who has any kind of experience in criminal law. This individual happens to be one Teddy Barnes. Teddy, we quickly learn, is a woman who was a phenomenal prosecutor, but who made the choice to switch over to corporate law because of a particular incident that occurred which the only thing you really need to know about it at this particular point in time is that it may or may not have involved unscrupulous machinations on the part of Teddy’s boss at that particular time…..one Thomas Krasny. Of course, it should come as no surprise to learn that, when asked to take on the case Teddy is at first highly reluctant. Yet when she learns that Krasny is involved and she is persuaded by not only Jack, but also by a senior member of her firm, we see Teddy recruit her old investigator during her time at the DA’s office and agree to take on the case. Of course it isn’t long before Teddy’s interest in both Jack and his case start to veer from the typical degree of professionalism into something that is both a bit more on the personal (and borderline if not downright unethical) side and as a result we see that things soon start to get a bit more complicated than Teddy had perhaps hoped that they would. However as the trial goes on and we see the question of both Jack’s innocence (or lack thereof) to say nothing of whether his romantic feelings toward Teddy are genuine or not continue to be in flux, we see our heroine start to have serious doubts about the case she has been handed. Thus the questions now become: how is this case going to play out, what exactly does Teddy have against Krasny, what will become of Teddy and Jack’s burgeoning romantic relationship, and perhaps most important of all: who is responsible for the vicious double homicide at the heart of this whole mystery? Suffice it to say dear reader that by the end of this slice of cinema you will know the answers to these questions….
Now right off the bat in terms of the work done behind the camera, I can say that the best description I can give it is solid and dependable, but not entirely all that special. Indeed at the helm we have the guy who actually directed, among other things, Return of the Jedi in 1983 and this film is actually one of the more underrated efforts on his tragically brief resume. Indeed it’s not that the work he does is anything novel or game changing in any way. Rather, it’s the fact that he knows exactly what we want from a genuinely good slice of cinema in this genre and as a result gives us a movie that is just that no more and no less. The same can also be said for this slice of cinema’s script. Yes there are twists a’plenty and yes some of them might not exactly make the most sense, but again this is one slice of cinema that on the written page knows exactly what fans of this genre want from a genuinely good entry in this genre and is very workmanlike in its approach at giving you just that. Finally, I also have to give significant props to this movie’s score which was given to us by iconic composer John Barry. Indeed this is one score that is both thrilling in the moments where it needs to be like in the beginning when the visceral murder takes place, but also warm and tender in the moments between Teddy and her kids, Teddy and her quasi-sorta father figure/ investigator Sam, and especially between Teddy and Jack as their professional relationship of attorney and client starts to take a turn for the personal. Thus this slice of cinema doesn’t exactly bring anything new to the table or revolutionize this particular sub-genre of movie magic, but it is a fairly good and engaging little slice of cinema all the same.
Perhaps the strongest component that this intriguing slice of mystery cinema has working in its favor would be the immensely gifted cast of performers who all manage to bring their proverbial A-game in bringing their respective characters to life. This starts with iconic screen presence Jeff Bridges in the role of Jack Forrester and he is, to no surprise, wonderfully cast. Indeed this part is slightly different than a lot of other roles that Bridges has graced audiences with for reasons I shan’t spoil here, but Bridges still manages to bring both his inherent likability and charm as well as talented screen presence and gives us a role that is easily one of the more underrated ones on his resume. I also really enjoyed the other lead performance here by Glenn Close as Teddy Barnes. Indeed Close has always been one of my favorite actresses for how she always tries to challenge herself as a performer with every role she takes on and in this one she brings a wonderful mix of determination to do the best job she can for her client even as the professional boundary between them starts getting awfully blurry and righteous anger toward her opponent in the court room due to her knowledge of tactics he has engaged in previously. Tactics that resulted in her being psychologically scarred and unwilling to step back into a courtroom out of a sense of guilt that she didn’t do nearly as much as she could’ve. Suffice to say that Close manages to give this character the life and range she so desperately needed in order for the audience to follow along and root for her as the story goes on. In terms of supporting cast, everyone assembled does a wonderful job though I feel that praise must be given to not only Peter Coyote who in his role of Krasny makes for a wonderfully slimy antagonist and Robert Loggia who is terrifically grumpy and cantankerous yet also caring and upstanding in his Oscar-nominated role of Teddy’s devoted investigator/ surrogate father-figure of sorts Sam Ransom. Suffice it to say therefore that whatever flaws there may be in the other components of this slice of cinema, the performances by this cast is most assuredly in top-form in every sense of the word.
All in all is Jagged Edge the say-all, end-all when it comes to the genre of movie magic that is the mystery-thriller genre? Honestly no not even close. If that is what you are looking for then here are some other slices of cinema that I honestly think you might want to look into: Gone Girl, The Usual Suspects, Silence of the Lambs, Prisoners, and Seven. That should serve as a nice little list in order to get you started. However with that in mind is this slice and dice of cinema one that contains a fairly riveting puzzle for the audience to try and figure out, not-bad work in the director’s chair from the helmer of, among other slices of cinema, Eye of the Needle from 1981 and Return of the Jedi from 1983 and his immensely talented crew behind the camera, as well as truly wonderful work from a skilled group of performers including Jeff Bridges, Glenn Close, Peter Coyote, and Robert Loggia in a role that managed to garner him a very well-deserved Supporting Actor Oscar nod? Honestly that definitely sounds more like the slice and dice of cinema that audiences are being given here. Indeed make no mistake dear reader: Jagged Edge might not be the pinnacle of this particular genre of movie magic, but when a mystery is this well-done both in front of as well as behind the camera then who honestly am I to complain? Therefore definitely check this one out if you haven’t gotten the chance to yet or if it’s been awhile and it’s a rainy or cold day outside and there is nothing better on then definitely give this one a rewatch. I promise you will most assuredly not regret it. On a scale of 1-5 I give Jagged Edge “85” a solid 3.5 out of 5.