- Glenn Close as Teddy Barnes
- Jeff Bridges as Jack Forrester
- Peter Coyote as Thomas Krasny
- Robert Loggia as Sam Ransom
A solid thriller with dashes of courtroom drama added to the proceedings, Jagged Edge is entertaining and does keep you guessing. It may not be the most original thriller out there and you may have to suspend disbelief, but it’s worth checking out if you want to be on your toes and intrigued by a good many shocks and reveals.
On a dark, stormy night in San Francisco, beautiful socialite Paige Forrester is brutally murdered in her beach house by a masked assailant, who also butchers her maid with a hunting knife sporting a serrated edge. Her handsome husband Jack, who is also her business partner at the newspaper she owns, claims that he was knocked unconscious and woke up to find his wife dead. Slimy District Attorney Thomas Krasny doesn’t buy Jack’s story and based on circumstantial evidence that points directly to Jack, he arrests him. The high-profile case will soon go to court and leading up to this, Jack tries to hire former lawyer Teddy Barnes to represent him. Teddy quit her job years before after working with Krasny on a case where she later found out he withheld evidence that would have exonerated the man who went to prison. She is haunted by the knowledge that the client hanged himself in prison and feels a sense shame for what happened, leading her to reconsider taking the case for Jack as a way to atone for her crisis in ethics. Teddy agrees to meet Jack and after reluctance, she steps back into the lawyer ring once again as she believes he is innocent. The case brings her face to face with Krasny once more and you can feel that Teddy wants to do the case to make up for the guilt she has and to take on Krasny again, who is the prosecution. In the meantime, despite it being against her better judgement, Teddy falls for Jack and engages in an affair. She builds a case for Jack, with the help from her old mentor Sam Ransom, a former private investigator whose lost known of his wily intuition. As the count case gets under way and certain things are aired, Teddy is left to consider where she stands on Jack’s claims of innocence , and whether she is in too deep.
The direction from Richard Marquand is crisp, slick and confident; allowing time to toss in clues and play with perceptions to a high degree. Speaking of that, the whole idea of what may or not be is what really drives the plot of Jagged Edge along. With strong direction and a tightly constructed script from Joe Eszterhas, the possibility of Jack being a murderer or being innocent are both very plausible. This leads to an up and down in whether we, as well as Teddy can trust him, most of all her considering the feelings she develops for him that could cloud her judgement if she isn’t careful. And though the familiarity of the script is there, largely because Eszterhas would use the blue print of it for the later film Basic Instinct, but a good deal of tension and handsome attention to character allows it to hold up considerably. It’s in the courtroom drama and ensuing scenes of that ilk that Jagged Edge truly comes alive, with exciting misdirection and possible revelations pulling the rug out from under you and getting us to question our own beliefs on whether Jack really could have carried out such a brutal slaying. There is something even old-fashioned about Jagged Edge, especially in the court scenes and the investigation, that brings a certain level of sophistication to the table. Jagged Edge does have its moments of not being as smooth as it would like to be and you do have to take a leap of faith sometimes. The biggest one being how quickly Teddy falls for Jack, though the stars sell the romance and it thankfully doesn’t become too outrageous to be true. If anything, the ensuing romance deepens the film, despite the quickness, and makes Teddy more of a rounded character in the process because of how the case takes on a personal tone for her. A few plot holes and inconsistencies here and there can be seen, but the slick package of Jagged Edge redeems them with airs of well-crafted mystery and nifty surprise. John Barry does the score which mixes his command of flowing orchestra with the electronic, for something unusual but very atmospheric. I wouldn’t say it’s the best score from John Barry, but even not at the top of the game Barry is ten times better than most composers.
Heading the cast is the ever fantastic Glenn Close. She excels at showing the sharp and passionate mind of Teddy as she is drawn back to the profession she renounced and also her vulnerability at being susceptible to the charms of Jack. The character’s actions are sometimes questionable, but Close finds a wealth of emotion and indecision within Teddy that reveals that while she is a lawyer, she is also a human being. It’s safe to say that the sensitivity and strength of the part as she grapples with conflicting ideas and possibly dangerous dilemmas, that are wonderfully acted by the ever talented Glenn Close, who is splendid as always. The nice guy image that Jeff Bridges is known for is excellently subverted here, with a clouded sense of enigma over his charisma that really gets you to consider the character’s true nature. If it seems that Bridges is holding back a lot, it actually comes in handy as Jack is someone you never know if you can really trust or not. Could his charm be a mask? Or is he genuinely innocent of the crime he stands accused of? The deliberate and ideal use of keeping everything under wraps is remarkably acted by Jeff Bridges, who nails the two very different possibilities of the man. It’s a testament to the talents of Bridges that you feel you might know the character, then something comes up that suggests a possibly different angle on him. Peter Coyote provides slippery support as the nasty DA, with eyes on bigger things, who is anything but by the book and will step on anyone to get where he’s going. Coyote sells the smug arrogance of the character, though it is fun to watch his ego take a blow in court when he is left squirming by Teddy’s put downs. Stealing the time he has on screen is the fun of Robert Loggia as the gumshoe helping Teddy. His hard-boiled yet good-hearted exchanges with her, complete with foul language and salty humour of a 40’s style noir hero, are a delight to watch and Loggia really makes a mark whenever he appears.
It’s not going to go down as the best thriller ever crafted and there are some holes in the film, but the overall presentation and execution of Jagged Edge retains the interest and the positives largely rise above the negatives, due to a high level of mystery. Tension and drama are there and are what raises Jagged Edge to an effective level of thriller, along with the work from the cast that makes it a thoroughly exciting watch of suspense.