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Jagged Edge

Seven years before "Basic Instinct", 1985's JAGGED EDGE delivered a sexy thriller about the murder of a wealthy San Francisco socialite.

It's similarities to the Michael Douglas/Sharon Stone hit make sense, knowing both films were written by the same man, Joe Eszterhas (FIST, Jade).

Jeff Bridges (True Grit, The Last American Hero) stars as Jack Forrester, husband of the murdered woman. Prosecutors seem ready to pounce on Jack from the start. He's the classic too-perfect husband with a lot to benefit from by his wife's death.

San Fran AG Thomas Kransky (Peter Coyote) is blatantly positive that Jack's the killer and before long, plenty of evidence seems to agree with him.

Forrester is the unanimously loved owner of a major San Francisco paper. The scenes of he and his team with the giant presses pouring forth thousands of newspapers a second are like a relic from a distant past. Remember newspapers?

Jack's legal advisors at the paper introduces him to the only lawyer on their team they feel can take on his case, Teddy Barnes (Glenn Close). But she's no longer even practicing as a lawyer and clearly has a distaste for the nastier parts of the law.

After meeting Jack and walking through the scene of the crime, she believes he is innocent, accepts the case and the trial is set.

Director Richard Marquand (Eye of the Needle, Return of the Jedi) is, as always, terrific at pulling you into the mystery, slowly pulling back layer after layer toward the truth.

Eszterhas peppers the screenplay with some terrific scenes and lines of dialogue, some of which seem especially silly 40 years later, but at his core, he knows how to write a thriller.

Robert Loggia (Big, Scarface) is excellent as Teddy's longtime investigator, Sam Ransom. Sam seems like a gumshoe from a Bogart film, but his profanity and hard edge could only be from an 80's thriller. This was Loggia's only Oscar nominated performance and it's a doozy.

80's character actors surround the players in great style. Lance Henriksen (Aliens) and James Karen (Poltergeist) are especially good.

John Barry's music score slides back and forth between being seductively romantic and pounding with suspense as a masked killer slowly mounts the dark stairs toward his victim.

Bridges and Close are both excellent. Producer Martin Ransohoff (Silver Streak, Ice Station Zebra) famously let it be known he wanted Jane Fonda for the role of Teddy. He said Close was "too ugly" for the part. Close wanted him banned from the set and Marquand supported her. What the hell was Ransohoff thinking?

I remember a lot of controversy at the time of the film's release because the final scene revealing the identity of the killer had such a quick cut (less than a second showing their face) that many audiences were caught saying "wait, what? who is that?"

The filmmakers edited the final scene to make that shot about 4 seconds long, taking at least THAT mystery off the table.

I miss the big studio murder thrillers of the 80's. There are twists galore, fantastic courtroom moments, unbridled sex scenes and high drama in equal measure.

The final twenty minutes of the film do go a bit off the rails. Teddy is a savvy, sharp woman who suddenly seems to make some very odd choices. Head scratching to say the least.

But as a whole, it still works very well and kept me guessing.

JAGGED EDGE spins its way to a very enjoyable B.

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