Jagged Edge April 8, 2016
Jagged Edge is part courtroom saga, part romantic drama, and part popcorn thriller, and its potency in each category makes it a piece of diversion perfectly capable of tap dancing on the nerves of the viewer. It stars Glenn Close as Teddy Barnes, a respected defense attorney hired to represent Jack Forrester (Jeff Bridges), a hotshot publisher whose wife (Maria Mayenzet) has been brutally murdered in their secluded beach house. Jack says he’s innocent, and we believe him — but the law isn’t so convinced, DA Thomas Krasny (Peter Coyote) being the one who makes his quick arrest and the one who heads the prosecution.
Teddy’s past success rate is high, but things might not be so simple this time around. Years ago, she was involved in a high profile case that has since left her hesitant to take on big name clients; Jack is the first she’s defended after a long period of self-inflicted isolation. She’s skeptical of his innocence — the nature of his wife’s death is awfully suspicious, as if it were crafted by a killer trying to throw investigators off track — but the more she gets to know the man she’s saving, the more sure she is of his decency. A short time later, the more sure she is of her being in love with him, a torrid affair ensuing as a result. But things can’t quite be so novel in an astute nail-biter in the vein of Jagged Edge, and so we can expect that there’s a slight chance that Jack could be the murderer and could just be seducing Teddy to distract her from the truth.
But that’s a lot of coulds, and we’re never able to land on a solid conclusion because we’re so swayed by Jack’s likability. He seems too good a guy to be a killer, we tell ourselves, and Close, a plucky, smart heroine, would never be dumb enough to fall under his spell. Or is he a nice guy, or is she too intelligent to go against her best judgment? We go back and forth throughout Jagged Edge, and that unease is what makes it pack such a wallop. It’s all done supremely well, with acerbity and carnality, and with a backbone of cogent performances.
Directed by Richard Marquand (Return of the Jedi, Eye of the Needle) and written by Joe Eszterhas (Flashdance, Basic Instinct), it’s all enthralling and neatly galvanic, and I especially like the way Close is at the front-and-center, the men good but only distractions in the scope of the film’s entirety. Robert Loggia, as her right-hand man, is an enjoyably grumpy curmudgeon, and Bridges, with his teddy bear ruggedness, is a terrific question mark of a character because we have so many preconceived notions about Bridges already (most of them being positive, heroic). Jagged Edge is the sort of spellbinding thriller that keeps us two steps behind its winner of a plot, and I prefer it that way — to never stop guessing, and to never stop wanting to guess, in a whodunit, is a dream, and the film is a humdinger of its kind. B+