Physical Evidence (1989)
For Burt Reynolds, things continued to spiral downwards throughout the eighties and into the nineties when it came to his big screen leading roles and although this film is far from terrible it sure didn’t help. See Cop and a Half for the final nail.
On paper this probably seemed like a safe bet. The film was originally to be a sequel to the popular Jagged Edge. When that failed to materialize the script doctors went to work. With Michael Crichton directing one would think Burt had a solid chance of a box office success when this hit the movie screens.
Burt stars here in a familiar role playing a burned out cop. Sure he’s done it before. Hustle and Sharky’s Machine. Point taken but he does it so well. This time we meet him as he is being arrested for the supposed murder of a local gangster. It’s common knowledge that he’s had words and laid threats down against the deceased. That isn’t helping him plead his case. Fortune smiles on “The Burt” when a young up and coming public defender takes on his dead end case.
Looking for a case to make her name on we get Theresa Russell as Burt’s savior and possible love interest. Getting out on bail they begin to fence with each other over how much information Burt is willing to share with her. Russell is starting to think perhaps he’s guilty after all. He seems to have plenty of alibis that don’t hold water including one from ex-lover Kay Lenz. Reluctantly they team up to search for the real killer and the reason for the frame up.
With a little bit of gun play and plenty of opportunity for Burt slamming a few heads and acting tough we move towards the not so interesting payoff. That’s one of the films problems as it’s just not that interesting. Nothing builds to a fever pitch and as for Russell? The less said the better. Not her finest moment.
Joining Burt in this film is his long time pal and frequent co-star Ned Beatty as the D.A. out to put him behind bars. If Beatty’s character is a red herring, there is no payoff which is another loose end that doesn’t really come together at the climax. As muddled as this film gets, it still offers us a chance to see Burt in a role that he knows how to play and play well. Every now and then he injects that smile and a little bit of the Reynolds sarcasm that made him such a bankable star in his hey day.
So whether it’s this film or one of his bigger hits, turn back the clock and give the man his due.