Jagged Edge ★★★

This review may contain spoilers. I can handle the truth.

This review may contain spoilers.

Watched as part of the June 2017 Letterboxd Scavenger Hunt
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#16: A Film With A Weapon In The Title

2017 movie viewings, #92. Normally I pride myself on my track record of never revealing spoilers in my movie and book reviews -- it's the mark of a good critic, in my opinion, when they can get their points across without mentioning anything crucial about the plot -- but in the case of 1985's Jagged Edge, the spoiler is an integral part of my story; for when I was in high school and this movie was on cable, one night I accidentally caught just the last 15 minutes of this early Joe Eszterhas thriller, and so for the last thirty years I've known in advance that the charming Jeff Bridges really did slaughter his wife Charles-Manson-style in order to deflect suspicion off of him, and that his earnest lawyer Glenn Close really did get played by this lie-detector-fooling sociopath, only stumbling across the truth in the next-to-last scene of the movie.

That's why I've subsequently avoided watching this film for the last thirty years, despite its good reputation (it was one of the last films by respected Welsh director Richard "Return of the Jedi" Marquand, before unexpectedly dying at 49 of a surprise stroke), because I figured there was no point in watching this courtroom drama if I already knew how it turned out; and indeed, now that I actually have finally sat down and watched it, that turns out to exactly be the case, so my apologies if you ignored the spoiler warning on my review and have now had the movie ruined for you too. The good news in that case is that the movie is actually not that much above mediocre, which means you're not missing much; and most of that can be blamed on the clunky, obvious script by Eszterhas, who of course established his entire early career based on stylish empty thrillers like these (including such other eyerolling titles as Flashdance, Basic Instinct and Showgirls).

It's easy to see why '80s audiences, weary of the grimy indie aesthetic of '70s cinema, might be impressed by slick MTV-style movies like these; but the movie itself essentially consists of every single cliche about courtroom dramas ever invented, strung together for 90 minutes, then capped with a ridiculously false-ringing vigilante finale in which Close blows away Bridges Bernard-Goetz-style while seductively waiting for him in bed in a teddy, which screams "'80s Eszterhaus!!!!!!" louder than just about anything else could. (Also, a major expository point of this movie is that Close left the attorney general's office in disgust after being forced to participate in a corrupted "discovery" process that was then covered up; but she then spends this entire trial unveiling an endless series of surprise witnesses and pieces of evidence that she deliberately hid from the prosecution, which leads me to believe that Eszterhas doesn't understand what the term "discovery" actually means. Also as well, the act of a criminal attorney becoming disgusted with the corrupted ethics of the AG office, then responding to that by becoming an estate lawyer for billionaire corporate executives, is the kind of laughably flawed logic that also so delightfully marks Eszterhas' '80s scripts.)

So yeah, you're not actually missing much by learning the surprise ending of this movie in advance; and if you're looking for a history lesson on why these kinds of crappy erotic thrillers were so enthusiastically embraced by '80s audiences, you're better off going straight to the most batshit-crazy examples like Basic Instinct, instead of ones like these that are heartbreakingly only half-saved by serious, competent directors like Marquand. Buyer definitely beware today.

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