Jagged Edge is an incredibly lousy legal thriller written by Joe Eszterhas and directed by Richard Marquand. Marquand is probably best known for having stepped in to direct Return of the Jedi after David Cronenberg AND David Lynch both turned down George Lucas’ offer. Eszterhas and Marquand would follow up their success with Jagged Edge with the completely forgotten Bob Dylan vehicle Hearts of Fire, which was dubbed “the film that killed Marquand” because he died of a stroke before the film even came out.
Jeff Bridges plays a San Francisco socialite whose wife is murdered in his beach house. Naturally, he is the prime suspect. He is arrested, and hires reluctant high-profile lawyer Teddy Barnes (Glenn Close). They eventually begin a steamy fling while the trial goes on. Robert Loggia plays the private detective Teddy hires to investigate, and Peter Coyote plays the head prosecutor, who is also Teddy’s former boss.
The film is a complete fiasco from the get-go—there is absolutely no tension at all, since it’s pretty clear to the viewer who the killer is. Everybody is utterly slumming it. Even Eszterhas is slumming it, and that’s saying something. I actually generally like Eszterhas—he writes bombastic, high-concept screenplays, generally thrillers, and gets ridiculous sums of money for them. He was once paid 1.5 million for a two-page outline! However, this film ain’t no Basic Instinct. It’s not even another Betrayed, which is a much better film than people remember it as, especially given that it’s coming from a right-winger (but then again, it ended up being directed by a communist.)
I’ve never liked Glenn Close, she is so mannered in everything that you can see through what she is doing pretty much every single time. Meryl Streep is somewhat similar, but is a better actress who has simply lucked out to get enough great roles. Streep also has more range. Close is always utterly desperate for an Oscar, and it shows, despite her downplaying that more recently by saying “it might be cool to never get a Oscar” (she has gained seven nominations.) Jeff Bridges is utterly lousy in the film, and there is no bigger Jeff Bridges fan in the world than me. He is far too likable for the role he has here. Even when he is playing assholes, like in The Fisher King, you kind of like the guy. Bridges did a bunch of thrillers around this time, like Cutter’s Way, 8 Million Ways to Die and Against All Odds, all of which were far superior to this in almost every facet. I’m not even that wild about Against All Odds, but that is a much better film (also Indicator… which could use a UK Blu-Ray release).
Peter Coyote is perfectly fine as the slightly dickish prosecutor. It’s always somewhat amusing to see him on screen, because everybody knows his voice so well from his long-term voice work for Ken Burns and PBS. Robert Loggia is probably the highlight as the slightly brutish but in the end good-natured private dick. but didn’t deserve the Oscar nomination he received.
Jagged Edge is total trash. While it’s mildly entertaining and competently made but it’s hugely predictable. The fact that this was a sizable hit at the time is kind of baffling. The studio even worked on a sequel for a period, which eventually became the Burt Reynolds/Theresa Russell vehicle Physical Evidence, directed by Michael Crichton. If you have fond memories from it on TV—I can’t verify it, but this film must’ve been a stable on cable TV for decades—then this is the release for you. But if you are new to the film, proceed with caution.
The Guardian interview with Jeff Bridges, which runs for 58 minutes, serves as an alternative commentary track. Eszterhas features in a brand new interview, and blows smoke up his own ass constantly, but that’s his schtick. There’s also a new interview with the film’s editor, Sean Barton. Musicologist David Huckvale does an analysis of John Barry’s score, which is one of the film’s better aspects, and the theatrical trailer, radio spot and image gallery round off the extras on the disc. The booklet includes a new essay by Maitland McDonagh, extracts from archival interviews with director Richard Marquand, a look at the making of the film, and an overview of contemporary critical responses.