Under Suspicion Review

Oct 28, 2002 | 12:54pm EST

Two young girls are dead the apparent victims of a serial rapist-murderer. Called in for questioning is Henry Hearst (Hackman) Puerto Rico's most prominent tax attorney. Hard-nosed cop Freeman and his loose-cannon assistant (Thomas Jane) smell a rat -- Hearst's alibis don't add up his Internet activities are on the barely legal side and he hasn't made the French Connection with his troubled trophy wife (Monica Bellucci) in quite some time. Just when you're about to write off the movie as a 110-minute episode of "Law & Order " a major plot twist falls from the sky and crushes what is left of the film's believability.

Model-turned-actress Bellucci ("Bram Stoker's Dracula") is a pleasant surprise in her first major U.S. role. She delivers a few lines in her exotic voice looks alternately alluring and enigmatic in lip-glossy close-ups and does little else ... but what she does she does well. Hackman (two Oscars) gives an uneven performance effectively conveying hidden shame and guilt but lapsing into Shatner-esque delivery in moments of nervous indignation. Freeman (three Oscar noms give him one already) helps redeem the film revisiting familiar territory as the no-nonsense detective.

Director Stephen Hopkins who cut his teeth on horror and action flicks ("Lost in Space " "Predator 2") brings the tricks of his previous trade to the psychodrama genre. Sometimes the unusual marriage works as in the flashback scenes that meld Freeman's interrogation with the other characters' memories. But he succumbs to the temptation to show off the exotic surroundings with vertigo-inducing camera work creating an atmosphere of artificial tension that the stumbling story line can't sustain.

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