The Accused (October 27/02)
As The Accused opens, Sarah (Jodie Foster) has just been raped by three men while a large crowd of drunk watched and cheered. Assigned to her case is Kathryn (Kelly McGillis), an assistant D.A. who's sure the case is a loser because Sarah was drunk and stoned at the time. She agrees to a plea bargain for the three rapists, but soon after decides to go after the spectators.
It doesn't exactly take a genius to guess how the case is going to turn out, so the film instead has to rely on the acting to propel the story forward. And that's really what sets The Accused apart from the plethora of TV shows devoted to this sort of format (ie any of the three Law and Order programs): Foster's stellar, thoroughly compelling performance. The character of Sarah is incredibly complex, with her white-trash demeanor and not-entirely-likable persona, but Foster nevertheless turns her into someone we care about. McGillis is fine as Kathryn, though the character remains woefully underdeveloped (her sudden transformation from calculating career woman to caring social advocate is haphazard at best).
The real problem with The Accused, besides the familiar layout of the plot, are the completely over-the-top evil male characters. Venerable character actor Leo Rossi delivers an exceedingly one-dimensional performance as one of the boorish spectators, culminating in an unintentionally hilarious confrontation with Sarah in a parking lot (imagine the most inappropriate way to speak to a woman, quadruple it, and you'll have a fairly good idea as to how the meeting plays out). Likewise, I'm not sure if I entirely buy the idea that a bar full of men would cheer on a brutal gang rape. Obviously, there are a lot of despicable guys out there (the number of which no doubt triples in hillbilly country, where The Accused takes place), but really, not one man would've felt compelled to either interfere or call the police? Now, The Accused is based on a true story, so it's entirely possible that's exactly the way it happened, but somehow it just felt overblown and exaggerated to me. Perhaps if the rape hadn't been re-enacted (which would've worked fine, really), the whole thing wouldn't have seemed quite so over-the-top.
But the movie's certainly worth seeing, if only for Foster's award winning performance. Though her climactic courtroom speech screams Oscar bait, it's nevertheless quite riveting. Foster's acting makes up for the hit-you-over-the-head-with-a-hammer moralizing and preaching, so on that level, the film works.