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Absence of Malice [VHS]
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Product Description

The ethics of the press are roundly slapped around in an entertaining if not always believable drama from director Sydney Pollack. Sally Field is the Miami reporter who is set up to leak information on a dead-end murder investigation. A sneaky government official (a marvelous, rubber-band-spinning Bob Balaban) provides the information that implies liquor distributor Paul Newman is under investigation. When the story runs, it uncorks a legal quagmire that puts the spotlight on presumably innocent lives. As the lawyers explain, the paper's story is accurate, even though it may be untrue. The details of the story are sharply drawn by first-time screenwriter and former reporter Kurt Luedtke (who later went on to win an Oscar scripting Pollack's Out of Africa); the film could be used in a Media Ethics 101 class. Newman secretly counterattacks in a clever plot to derail the process that quickly encompasses his jittery friend (Oscar nominee Melinda Dillon). Field's continuing ethical gaps--including falling in love with her subject--stretch the film's credibility. Then again, who wouldn't fall for Paul Newman in the Florida sun? --Doug Thomas

Customer Reviews:

  • My Favorite Paul Newman Movie
    This is a movie I can watch over and over again. I never get tired of it. Just writing this review makes me want see it right now. It is a very powerful story about how the press can ruin peoples lives without being absolutely sure they are printing the truth and how they can be manipulated into furthering someone elses agenda regardless of how accurate the story they have been fed really is. The scene with Wilford Brimley is worth buying the movie for. I think my favorite line from him is "the last time there was leak this big,Noah had to build himself a boat". Great story and great acting....more info
  • One of the most important movies ever made...
    I can't improve on the first sentence from W.Corse's excellent 2/3/05 review:

    "Absence of Malice is one of my all-time favorites, and the first "older" movie that I grabbed when it was finally released on DVD. In my opinion this is one film that should be required viewing for every journalism major in the USA. "

    Some reviewers' comments seem unwarranted:
    (1) The movie is "slow"? (Not if you're paying attention to Paul Newman's brick-by-brick implementation of an utterly brilliant revenge.)
    (2) Sally Fields doesn't look too good? (I think she looks better in this film than she's ever looked.)
    (3) The "attraction" between Newman/Field is silly/implausible/the film's weak spot? (I couldn't disagree more. The scenes with these two are some of the best written/best acted you'll ever see: the uneasy tentativeness, attraction sparring with distrust. Is Newman using Fields? Fields using Newman? Both? Neither? I'm still not sure.)

    One reviewer called it the ultimate "get even" story, and--along w/The Shawshank Redemption- it is just that. The scenes of the final hearing, Wilfred Brimley presiding, belong on the short list of Great Movie Denouements.

    The media pretty much ignored it when it came out (go figure :o). It was a little before its time, but it will outlast them all....more info
  • VHS Movie
    In my opinion a great Paul Newman movie with some very dramatic scenes.

    Wilford Brimley plays an awesome no nonsense U.S. Marshal. I very much like what his part had to say....more info
  • A mildly pleasant way to spend an evening
    This movie depends for its climax upon Paul Newman's tricking the other people in the movie. Other than that, there's little drama in the movie. The affair between Newman and Field is not credible, nor is the incident in which Newman throws Field on the floor and rips her blouse, yet she does not report him to the police. The acting and pacing are good, if unexceptional....more info
  • An accurate portrayal of journalism
    When this movie came out, I was a reporter at a daily newspaper. I went to "Absence of Malice" fully prepared to hate it. Instead, I came away thinking that it was an accurate and believable portrayal of what happens in a newsroom. To this day, I am bothered that journalists too often fail to understand the impact their words have on people's lives. Most journalists I've known prefer to insulate themselves from the public and never hear about the negative effects of the stories they write. I highly recommend this movie to anyone interested in how reporters and editors operate....more info
  • Absence of Malice
    Have watched it three times already.....thanks for being so speedy with the delivery....more info
  • I'm used to dealing with girlfriends
    My Dad loved this movie. When he passed away last year I inheirited several boxes of videos and this was in it. I saw it again a few weeks ago.

    Newman is a wonderful actor. I see him and whether it's 'Cool Hand' or Frank Galvin ("Verdict") or here Michael Gallagher, I think of the greatest praise for books that don't waste your time, "economy." And Newman always has economy of motion and economy of speech. Nothing is wasted.

    Here Sydney Pollack (have you seen this guy's resume? Just the movies CURRENTLY filming or in post production) wrestles with the conscience of the press. And what a great time to see this movie again.

    Mike Gallagher is a liquor distributor whose father was a gangster. But Mike isn't. Sally Field is a stoolie so to speak for a mafia criminal syndicate indicting Miami prosecutor (Bob Balaban). She crucifies Newman with a story on gang connections, of which the facts are accurate but the story untrue.

    An interesting observation on the power of the press. That she does so is based upon the judicial immunity of the press if one writes with 'an absence of malice.' Always good. We missed the power of Ms. Field, probably overlooked in the memories of the flying nun (See 'Norma Rae'). As Redford, Sundance in another great Newman flick says, 'some mistakes you never stop paying for.' 5 stars. Larry Scantlebury ...more info
  • Great movie with silly love story.
    How unbelievable is it that Paul and Sally would end up in bed after Newman's friend, (played by Melinda Dillon), commits suicide because of the news story Sally's character writes. The dialog between Gallagher, (Newman), and Carter, (Field), is pointed, dynamic and, frankly, brilliant, but it shouldn't be happening in the bedroom. It doesn't make any sense. The quirky Elliot Rosen, (played brilliantly by Bob Balaban) is the engine driving this bus off a cliff. To Wit:

    FBI Agent Eddie Frost (Arnie Ross): What the hell's going on?

    Elliott Rosen (Balaban): Good question. You oughta join the FBI. I don't know either.

    Frost: It doesn't make any sense.

    Rosen: Got any ideas?

    Frost: Sure, early retirement.

    Rosen: I got a couple. I want 24 hour surveillance on Gallagher, not close. And I want taps on three phones; Gallagher's warehouse, Gallagher @ home..., Quinn's house.

    Frost: Wait a minute. Where are we going to find a judge who'll let us tap Quinn?

    Rosen: I'm not gonna ask a judge.

    Frost: It's no good in court.

    Rosen: I'm not in court. Not yet.

    Frost: You really think Gallagher bought him.

    Rosen: I don't know. You think he's for sale?

    During the entire conversation Rosen is animatedly chewing gum and spinning a rubber band between his hands. What a performance.

    Of course the curtain finally comes down when Asst. U.S. Attorney General James A. Wells (portrayed masterfully by Wilford Brimley) hits town with a U.S. Marshall and a stenographer in tow and puts an end to the whole charade and Elliot Rosen's career. If you haven't seen this film or haven't seen it in a while, see it now....more info
  • It Get's Better With Each Viewing
    It's hard for me to just toss around 5-star ratings for movies. I think they need to be reserved for something really special. Absence of Malice is a great movie and it deserves a solid 4-stars in my opinion.

    There is really no need to rehash some of the other things said in the previous reviews. I certainly agree with all the kudos for Wilford Brimley. His performance became the initial reason why I fell in love with this movie. The repeat viewings have shown me that it is hard to find bad acting in this movie.

    You always know that a director has done a great job when he can take characters with limited screen time and still cause us to know what they are feeling and thinking. Pollack does this masterfully with DA Quinn (Hood), Uncle Santos (Adler), and Editor McAdam (Sommer).

    I did have 2 problems with the film after the first couple viewings but have since made peace concerning them. First, I really didn't like the Teresa Perrone character played flawlessly by Melinda Dillon. I didn't buy the relationship between her and Gallagher (Newman) but I guess if she had been his sister or his ex-wife then the revenge plot he charted with his uncle would have taken a different course.

    I also initially didn't like the casting of Sally Field in the lead. I felt the same way a fews years ago when Meg Ryan tried to pull off Proof Of Life. If you needed cute then Sally Field was your huckleberry but this role needed a little more street cred. The problem I had was who else could you have cast? Streep was even younger then Fields at the time. I'm not a huge Faye Dunaway fan but she probably would have been a better fit. But, I will have to admit that Ms Field never looked better then when she was standing on the dock in the closing scene with Paul Newman.

    One last note. I wonder if Bob Balaban, who since has been great in the Christopher Guest trilogy of films and the TV show Seinfeld, kept the rubber band that he kept spinning around in this movie. It was a very effective prop in moving forward his career....more info
  • Thoughtful riposte to "investigative journalists"
    Paul Newman is cast as a businessman whose only links to organised crime are tenuous at best -via an uncle (Luther Adler -excellent as ever)-but because he is the son of a long dead mobster ,is believed by a hotheaded Federal prosecutor (Bob Balaban)to possibly be able to help them crack an ongoing investigation that has stalled .This investigation revolves around the disappearance of a prominent mobster in Miami where the action takes place .

    Seeing an opportunity and untramelled by such niceites as ethics he leaks the news of Gallagher's possible "complicity"to an ambitious journalist ,Megan (Sally Field).She swallows the bait and writes a story full of iron clad innuendo implicating Gallagher ,a tale splashed all across the front pages .The story comes close to destroying his life and tragedy follows in its wake.With a contrite Megan as ally -she and Gallagher having become romantically involved-he decides to strike back at the people who have so cavalierly treated him and his family .

    The work raises key questions of media responsibility ,and sadly ,fudges them at key points but the movie is still poilished ,literate entertainment which would work well on a double bill with All The President's Men as it is a counterpart to that movie in some ways While the Bernstein/Woodward movie amounted to a hagiographic portrait of journalists this tends towards a more jaundiced viewpoint and is for my money the more interesting piece as a result

    Performances are uniformly excellent with Balaban especially outstanding .This repays watching if only for the way it asks us to look at issues of media ethics and mores .It sharply portrays the downside to irresponsible investigative reporting and corrects the glib Hollywood l notion that journalists are heroes-sometimes ,sure ,but they can do a lot of harm and this movie entertainingly ecposes this aspect to the fourth estate....more info
  • Absence of Malice DVD
    Quality of DVD excellent; prompt service and mailing; good price; easy to order. Thank you...more info
  • Newman nails 'em to the wall!
    Cleverly woven story that comes to a head when U.S. Attorney General James Wells (Wilford Brimley) "Lays down The Law" to reporter Megan Carter (Sally Field), Strike Force leader Elliott Rosen (Bob Balaban), investigator Robert Waddell (Barry Primus) and District Attorney Jim Quinn (Don Hood) for trying to "get something" on Michael Gallagher (Paul Newman); who ends up turning the tables on everyone trying to use him.

    Great morality play on The Press (and their Spin Control) and a lesson on comeuppence for "just doing one's job."

    First-rate acting from all the principals....more info