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Lipstick on the dog collar, gonna tell on you.

Plot Overview

An aerial shot zooming in on a lush island is followed by a plane landing and some signs denoting: AEROPUERTO SAN JUAN; ISLA VERDE. There's a festival going on, costumed figures thronging the streets, inter­mingled with a police presence. The camera takes us to a villa veranda where a man is reading aloud from a sheet of paper:

Hurricane Lucy whipped across Puerto Rico last October 12 causing even greater devastation than Hurri­cane George two years ago. This time the damage was consider­able. This time the damage was estimated at $1.8 billion.

He goes inside the house with mirrors and reflecting surfaces about, portrait photos on the wall, and a lit candle that gets blown out. A tele­phone call from his friend Police Captain Victor Benezet (Morgan Freeman) invites wealthy tax attorney Henry Hearst (Gene Hackman) to come down to the station to clear up some points w.r.t. his statement. Henry protests that, “There's a charity ball tonight.” Couldn't they do it some other time? “I'm giving the toast tonight,” he says. But it shouldn't take long.

bug waltz With the Saint Sebastion festival in full swing in front of the hotel San Juan Puerto where he's to give his toast, Henry and Victor engage in some intense repartee in the police station across the street. Henry having found one of two dead bodies of young girls is now treated like a suspect him­self when his story doesn't jibe. It has to do with Tango the “mystery dog” (or “ghost dog” if you prefer) with­out which he could not have discovered the body in the brush when he was out jogging.

Usually we can guess who will prevail by who's the bigger star, but these two are equal. They're both presented as good guys: Henry who is about to give a charity speech to help the children affected by the devastation, and Victor for wanting to keep the island's children safe from a predator-rapist. They each have under­lying moti­vations: Victor looking to get ahead in the department, with a righteous bust, and Henry wanting to protect his vulner­able position by NOT being the subject of a police inquiry. And if it appears that Henry is hiding some­thing, well, who doesn't have things to hide even from his friends let alone the policia?

In Victor's corner is young Detective Felix Owens (Thomas Jane) whose inexperience makes him over­zealous. In Henry's corner is his beautiful wife Chantal (Monica Bellucci) thirty years his junior and pretty clue­less. No, if it's really going to be settled, they'll need the testimony of man's best friend the dog, but that won't work. Lacking that, some mystery evidence (or ghost evidence) might do. Victor's relent­less­ness with leading questions puts me in mind of an NPR special I heard about how easily false confessions are obtained through well-intentioned zeal. This movie is so twisted it deserves its (zany) Polish title: “Podejrzany.”


Under Suspicion” (2000) was a remake of the French film “Garde a vue.” The French have a saying that helps them sort out the confusion: “Cherchez la femme” (Look for the female.) Chantal is a beauty hard to miss. The Bible has a saying: (Prov. 11:22) “As a jewel of gold in a swine's snout, so is a fair woman which is with­out discretion.” She seems to be lacking in the discretion department.

The movie discusses beautiful women as relying on their only talent beauty to get them by, “first with their father, and then with boy­friends and husband.” They may not under­stand that others may need the protection of their discretion.

A couple years ago Chantal had walked in on an almost compromising situation between Henry and her 13-year-old niece Camille (Isabel Algaze.) Instead of a discrete, "OH, there you are darling"—all that the situation called for—, “she over­reacted.” She cut off Henry in the bed­room department. While Victor responded to his failed marriages with divorce, Henry couldn't afford the financial compromise to his situation, so he'd “find a substitute” in young-looking putas. He felt so inferior that he wouldn't hire a high-class call girl but settled on quickies from “gutter-trash.” Of course, that required discretion from the wife who'd witness his excursions. His photog­raphy hobby would also rely on her discretion, at least to the extent of not allowing the police to search his dark­room. All those pictures of neighbor­hood children at play could only raise more questions.

By the time Henry was allowed to cross the street to give his charity speech, his toupee was missing and the sleeve on his tux was ripped. He embodied as much sartorial coordination as the proverbial “jewel of gold in a swine's snout,” but in the opposite direction. (My reader may recall a derived expression—of Southern lingo—employed in political debate in the (American) 2008 election referring to a female candi­date: “lip­stick on a pig.”)

Production Values

“Under Suspicion” (2000) was a remake the 1981 French film “Garde a vue” directed by Claude Miller, which was itself adapted from a 1979 novel Brain­wash by John Wain­wright. Tom Provost and W. Peter Iliff composed the screen­play for “Under” that was directed by Stephen Hopkins. It stars Morgan Free­man, Gene Hackman, Thomas Jane, and Monica Bellucci. Free­man and Hack­man, of course, excelled working off each other. Jane's and Bellucci's characters were so one dimensional that the parts being cast right, they worked right, too.

Puerto Rico was chosen to provide an exotic location, the San Sebastion Festival outside to evoke the island in flux, off of which played the deep inter­ro­gation inside. All the action happens over the space of 4–5 hours. A device was employed whereby the principals would physically be transported to the scenes they were recounting or discussing, illustrating alternate directions memory can take, or its inter­pret­ation. The musical accompaniment was fitting. Despite the subject matter, there was negligible blood and gore.

Review Conclusion w/ Consumer Recommendation

It's common nowadays to think of men as pigs, and cops the same way. The one being played off the other like this, our expectation is that one (or both) will say "oink" at the end. The possibility that a woman can be a pig is some­thing we're not prepared for, except for a certain kind of intellectual or perhaps the French. Other­wise, we expect women to guard their figures and men to guard every­thing they say (Henry: “Men can't say shit any­more.”) The movie “Sex and the City,” how­ever, also dealt with marital duty, but it seems to be rare. I think this one will go over a lot of people's heads, but I liked it, and I recommend it for a change of view.

Movie Ratings

Action Factor: Weak action scenes.

Suitability for Children: Suitable for children 13+ years with parental discretion.

Special effects: Average special effects.

Video Occasion: Better than watching TV.

Overall product rating: Four stars out of five.

Suspense: Keeps you on the edge of your seat.