Jagged Edge

3 out of 5

Directed by: Richard Marquand

I guess we’ve been spoiled on thrillers by this point, but I’m curious as to the reviews that covered Jagged Edge at the time, which seemed to pitch its whodunnit as particularly who-dunnit-y, when it seems… pretty transparent? That there’s also an anecdote concerning the killer’s reveal at the end, requiring a longer insert so the audience felt assured as to who it was, is also suggestive of these just being “different time” for viewers, and had I been part of that ’85 audience, perhaps I, too, would’ve been enraptured by back-and-forth “twists,” as opposed to just appreciating some performances, and the overall soap opera look and feel of the movie.

Accepting that, as of 2022, we’re talking about a movie nearly forty years old, this is probably overly judgmental; Jagged Edge is from the director of Return of the Jedi, after all – Richard Marquand – which I know I enjoyed as a kid, but felt like was a pretty incompetent movie as an adult, so the very classic Hollywood vibe of the movie maybe doesn’t age, although there are plenty of classics from earlier and from this era that work for me.

What I do know – what is part of that spoiling – as that this type of 2-hour fare has now been baked down to hour-long procedurals on TV, giving us fills of the format week by week, and with comparable production qualities. They might not have Robert Loggia and Glenn Close and Jeff Bridges, but they cover the same territory, and I recognize that it was a little more unique to get swept up in some splashed blood and naked bodies on the big screen back in the day, which maybe leant a filmgoing audience to turning off their brains a bit when settling into theater seats.

If it’s not apparent, then, I don’t think there’s much to Jagged Edge’s plot, which has playboy-by-marriage Jack (Bridges) being accused of the brutal murder of his wife, with DA Tom Krasny (Peter Coyote) going after him full-force, in that DA way we see in such things that suggests that there’s a political motive involved. As such, I’m-outta-the-game criminal attorney Teddy Barnes (Glenn Close) steps up in defense, who’s got some grudges against Krasny, and believes in Jack’s innocence. And despite her rule-setting otherwise, starts to fall for him as well, making things complicated when she has trouble denying some of the evidence of his guilt.

That this is a fairly typical erotic noir setup isn’t the issue; that the flick really doesn’t hide its telegraphing is… though on the other hand, I appreciate the confidence Marquand and scripter Joe Ezterhas showed in allowing the characters to stick in one single mode of charming (Bridges), smarmy (Coyote), or relatively naive (Close) throughout. Although I’m not sure that was exactly the intention.

Marquand’s bland setups don’t lean into that noir aspect enough, and kind of cheaply use a giallo intro for the inciting murder; the editing is rather abrupt, though it seems there was some work done to smooth out the mystery and tone, so who knows what an original cut might’ve looked like. The blandness doesn’t get in the way, though, and while the mystery itself is rather blase, there’s some interesting minor notes touched on concerning Teddy’s place as a woman in a man’s world, though the era wasn’t ready to dive into this too much, and Ezterhas’ script certainly doesn’t speak directly to it; it’s more of something to observe from afar, and it gets helpfully filled in by Close and Bridges’ skills.

As a first viewing, it works. The straight-forward approach almost keeps you hooked just to see if there’s something else going on… and then discovering that it’s exactly what you thought it was isn’t necessarily disappointing, because, well, nothing really indicated otherwise. Remaining interest is buoyed by our actors either chewing up the screen (Loggia, wonderful as a grizzled PI) or inserting some between-the-pages depth (Close), keeping things effective for the runtime.