'Guilty Suspicion' tells predictable, familiar tale


November 15, 1991|By Josh Mooney


Warner Home Video


Producer Irwin Winkler here turns to what is obviously a story near and dear to his heart -- the Hollywood Communist witch hunts in the '40s and '50s. His passions, though, don't guarantee a winner, and "Guilty By Suspicion" ends up being an earnest, by-the-numbers telling of a fairly familiar story.

Fortunately, this hero is played by Robert De Niro, so strong acting is assured. He plays David Merrill, a director in Hollywood during the years that the House Un-American Activities Committee engaged in their digging to find "Communists" and their ilk.

Called to testify, Merrill faces the ultimate nightmarish dilemma: If he names his friends who are left-leaning, the committee will go easy on him. Merrill struggles throughout the film to find the courage to do the right thing, while the film struggles to keep us interested.


Hollywood Pictures Home Video


In "Body Heat," Kathleen Turner, playing a sexy femme fatale, proved to the world that she had the charisma, energy and talent to turn that updated film noir into one hot movie. She would seem a good choice, then, to play the other side of the film noir coin: a tough, independent private investigator. It's not completely Ms. Turner's fault that the results are so uninspiring.

Producers, director and writers are all to blame for watering down and sprucing up Ms. Turner's title character, eliminating the best things about "V.I. Warshawski" as found in the series of novels by Sara Paretsky. What's left is the Hollywood shell of V.I., battling Hollywood's idea of villains and having the kind of relationships -- with kids, with men, with her boss -- that movies have been serving up for years. It's all about as exciting as yesterday's toast.

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