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Absence of Malice (1981)

Paul Newman , Sally Field , Sydney Pollack  |  PG |  DVD
4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (135 customer reviews)

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Product Details

  • Actors: Paul Newman, Sally Field, Bob Balaban, Melinda Dillon, Wilford Brimley
  • Directors: Sydney Pollack
  • Format: Multiple Formats, Color, Dolby, NTSC, Widescreen
  • Language: English
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.77:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated: PG (Parental Guidance Suggested)
  • DVD Release Date: December 7, 2010
  • Run Time: 116 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (135 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B00441GYOM
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #13,265 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "Absence of Malice" on IMDb

Special Features


Editorial Reviews

In America, can a man be guilty until proven innocent? Suppose you picked up this morning's newspaper and your life was a front page headline... and everything they said was accurate but not true. This is the dilemma that must be faced in this timely drama about the incredible power of the press. Michael Gallagher (played by Paul Newman in an Oscar-nominated role) reads in the paper that he is the subject of a criminal investigation. Suddenly, everything he has ever worked for is in jeopardy. He confronts the author, Megan Carter (Sally Field), a relentless investigative reporter. Together they learn that the story was purposely leaked to Carter as part of a plot by the chief investigator. Gallagher's life hangs in the balance as he and Carter try to uncover the truth.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
46 of 49 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Wilford Brimley Steals the Show May 11, 2005
This is a good movie with an interesting plot, good acting, decent directing and a politically relevent comment on the excesses of the US Press. Paul Newman gives his standard delivery that garnered him another deserving Best Actor nomination. However, what I come away with each time I see this movie is the short but powerful preformance of Wilford Brimley as the federal Justice Department official who comes in to untangle the confusing trap that Newman set. While the other characters have been playing a game of chess up til now, Brimley has no time for ruses or finess. He bullies, cajoles, and forces his way to the truth in a role that makes everyone else look small in comparison. His dispensing of penalties, options and opinions in the wake of the "tag; you're it" game that everyone else was playing is masterful. It's almost too bad the film didn't end there because the rest is unimpressive in comparison.

What is hard to comprehend is that Wilford Brimley not only didn't get the Best Supporting Actor Oscar; he wasn't even nominated! Oh well, awards don't always go to the most deserving. If you haven't seen "Absence of Malace", watch it the next chance you get. Much of it will impress you and one scene in particular will stay with you long after the others are forgotten.
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32 of 36 people found the following review helpful
If Woodward & Bernstein brought down the Imperial Presidency of Richard Nixon by exposing Watergate, which is arguably a good thing, then it introduced the era of "Gotcha" journalism. The press in this country is considered the fourth estate and it certainly has started acting like another branch of the government with the key difference that nobody checks or balances it. In "Absence of Malice," Sydney Pollack's indictment of the power of the press in the modern era, one man is given good reason to fight the system.

Michael Colin Gallagher (Paul Newman) is the son of a Mafia boss, long dead, who know owns and runs a liquor warehouse. He knows nothing about anything, but Elliott Rosen (Bob Balaban), the leader of a Justice Department Strike Force who is getting nowhere in southern Florida, leaks a fake story that Gallagher is the subject of an investigation. Smelling blood in the water, reporter Megan Carter (Sally Field) goes after the story that is not really there. Gallagher's life is exposed to the world and as the story that is not there grows it destroys the life of an innocent, Teresa Perrone (Melinda Dillon). At that point Gallagher concocts a plan to bring down everybody, simply by letting them do exactly what they want to do in a nice example of how to give a lot of people enough rope to hang themselves.

Unfortunately there the script requires Newman and Field to go through the motions for one of the more unbelievable romances in movie history, which only gets in the way of the focus of the story. You can never believe that she sees him as anything more than a story any more than you can accept that he is able to look past what she is trying to do to see a woman worth loving.
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15 of 16 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars It Get's Better With Each Viewing May 27, 2006
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.
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26 of 31 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Good performances...ethics be damned April 18, 2000
The issue of leaking information to the press has been around for years, and this film does its best to illustrate how badly it can backfire when the sources aren't properly checked and re-checked.
Having said that, and being a journalist myself, I just want to shoot Sally Field for her gross violations of journalist ethics. Getting involved with the subject? No how, no way. It just isn't done. If you can accept this HUGE leap of journalistic and editorial faith, then the rest of the movie is a breeze.
Aside from Newman, I think the best performance in the movie is one of the briefest...Wilford Brimley as the U.S. Attorney who gets to the bottom of the mess. It's just a pleasure to watch him go through the paces of tearing Bob Balaban's little vendetta all to pieces, and to experience his grudging approval to let Newman walk.
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