Director Harold Becker's Malice is a stylishly-done noir thriller/mystery where nothing, and I mean nothing, is quite what it seems.
*Major Spoilers Ahead*
Andy (Bill Pullman) and Tracy (Nicole Kidman) Safian are a happy young couple residing in a picturesque New England town. They are living a dream life: Andy is a college professor at local Westerley College; Tracy is a nursery school teacher. In their spare time, they are refurbishing an old home in a quiet neighborhood, hoping to have children.
Things don't stay quiet for long.
A Westerley student is raped and murdered, sending shockwaves reverberating throughout the quiet community. A few days later, one of Andy's own students is found raped and close to death. Detective Dana Harris (Bebe Neuwirth) questions (more "discusses" than outright questioning) Andy about it at the hospital, but there is really nothing to it. In the meantime, an old high school friend of Andy's, Dr. Jed Hill (Alec Baldwin), shows up in town. Jed thinks of himself as a great doctor, primarily because he is: In the OR he brought Andy's student back from death's door. He is also very successful with the ladies (think ER's Doug Ross).
New in town, Jed needs a place to stay and Andy, having run into him at the hospital as he checked on his student, tells him he can stay with himself and Tracy--the latter whom isn't quite so thrilled to hear about this arrangement, especially as Jed keeps bringing girl after girl home with him every night, keeping everyone awake.
One night, Tracy, who has been having abdominal pain, becomes very ill and has to be rushed to the hospital. As fate would have it (or maybe not so much), Jed is her doctor. As he performs emergency surgery on her, he discovers a cyst on one of her ovaries and determines he must remove both in order to save her life.
Things start to go downhill for Andy from here.
Jed rushes to Andy and informs him of the situation. He says there is a very strong chance Tracy will recover if he performs the emergency hysterectomy. The only downside, of course, is the couple will never be able to have children.
There is one more catch. A big one. Tracy is pregnant. This procedure will cause her to immediately miscarriage.
Andy, with no other viable option for saving mother and child, agrees to the procedure, and Jed does succeed in saving her life.
Tracy, however, becomes enraged at Andy for allowing the procedure to happen. She tells him they are through and completely refuses to speak to him--despite his anguished pleas for reconciliation.
To compound Andy's misfortunes, a second student of his, Paula Bell (Gwyneth Paltrow) turns up raped and murdered. This time, Andy is a prime suspect and has to undergo the humiliation of giving a DNA sample to the police--that, or go to jail.
As Andy waits for the test results to come in, Tracy and her attorney (Peter Gallagher) meet with the hospital to discuss settling (turns out one of Tracy's ovaries was healthy and didn't need to come out). They accuse Jed of having a "God complex," and taking unnecessary risks. At this, Jed completely loses it....talking about what a great doctor he is; his Harvard education; the awards he's received....
....he then proceeds to tell them that when people go to the hospital chapel and pray for their loved ones whom he is operating on--they are actually praying to him because, "I am God."
The hospital quickly settles for 20 million; Tracy vanishes.
Still reeling in shock, Andy has no choice but to return to work. Late at work one rainy evening, a light bulb in his office explodes. Everyone else has left for the day, so Andy goes down to the maintenance cellar to get a new one. While down there, he discovers a makeshift room and evidence linking the building's janitor, Earl Leemus (Tobin Bell), to the two murders.
Leemus abruptly shows up (Andy hurriedly puts the evidence back) and profusely apologizes for living down there without permission. Andy tries to play it off ("Stay as long as you like") and get out of there, but Leemus isn't buying. The two men engage in a grim struggle with Andy barely managing to subdue him.
With the murderer/rapist in custody, Andy now can devote his full attention to Tracy, and finding out just what is going on. Over a drink with Dana (Det. Harris), she gives Andy this bit of news: Hesitatingly, she tells him when his tests came back they showed that he is sterile. Tracy's miscarried baby wasn't his.
Andy immediately proceeds to go see Jed at his new apartment, telling him that Jed should now be able to resume his medical career and the hospital can recover most of the settlement money. Jed, however, is surprisingly cool to this news. He says Tracy played them both and the best thing they can do is to "forget it". Tracy won. They lost.
Jed is apparently fine with giving up his career and watching cartoons the rest of his life.
However, Andy cannot forget it. He visits (barges in on) Tracy's attorney and gets him to give him a clue to Tracy's whereabouts. Her lawyer gives him information on how to get in contact with her mother (Anne Bancroft), and she points him in the direction to where Tracy is staying: a rustic home on top of a cliff overlooking the Atlantic.
Andy then ventures to this home on a rainy night (great visuals here, by the way), slips inside, and finally gets to the bottom of everything that is going on; he then embarks on a plan to bring Tracy--and perhaps, others (I'm not saying)--to justice; leading to the film's climax.
I'm not revealing anything more. Watch the movie!
Malice is one of those movies I would see bits and pieces of late night on TNT. Finally, one night I caught it as it was coming on and watched it straight through. I enjoyed it so much that I checked for the next time it was on and recorded it. I now own the dvd.
I have read some critics pan this movie, saying it starts out as a campus murder mystery then morphs into a whole different story.
I disagree. I think this is exactly the point, that nothing in this movie is what it seems--including the movie, itself! Director Harold Becker and story/writers Aaron Sorkin, Jonas McCord and Scott Frank deserve high praise for pulling off (quite successfully, I might add) such a clever concept.
The movie also has a haunting, classical score which adds to the beautiful visuals.
Finally, all of the aforementioned leading players give excellent performances. You will root for Bill Pullman's character to succeed in a sick game he is clearly over-his-head in.
A great movie for a rainy evening.
Thank you for reading.
Rated R for language, violence and strong sexuality/nudity.
Released in 1993 by MGM/Columbia Pictures/Castle Rock Entertainment; 107 minutes.
The dvd includes widescreen and full screen formats (does not list specs) and also includes a theatrical trailer.
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