Sun May 22 18:26:54 UTC 2022

Absence of Malice?
Some thoughts on a Sunday afternoon in May, as the world burns.

I read somewhere, many years ago, a throwayway comment in some book "The world can be exploding and a man will stop to remove a rock from his shoe", or something to that effect.

Certainly, in May 2022 that needs no explanation. Unless you are one of the sheeple. OK, enough editorializing.

"Absence of Malice" is a 1981 American drama neo noir thriller film directed by Sydney Pollack and starring Paul Newman, Sally Field, Wilford Brimley, Melinda Dillon and Bob Balaban.

That's the Wickedpedia description. It's a direct quote, falling within the purview of the "Fair Use Act" (technically the "Freedom and Innovation Revitalizing United States Entrepreneurship Act of 2007"), so maybe they won't sue me. I don't have any money anyway, so good luck.

Alight already. To the movie.

I didn't watch the film when it was first released. I like Paul Newman and had seen a few of his films and liked them. Didn't get into the 'touchy-feely-sensitive-societally-significant' stuff of the day. I was still watching action/adventure and horror (usually the lower rated the better - need to look up "Parts - The Clonus Horror" (1979) again, it wasn't bad. Actually, it was probably more fun than Coma (1981) although the latter, based on a Robin Cook novel, got better reviews. And was OK. Only saw it once or twice. I'd watch Clonus again.

Okey-dokey. To the movie. Again.

Michael Gallagher (Paul Newman), whose father was a gangster of some sort, is a Miami liquor wholesaler. Name suggests Irish mob - they still around in 1980? Hmm. Anyway, seems to be a pretty decent sort, making an honest living, probably paying taxes and not making trouble for anyone. Only problem is that criminal father. Never get away from it. 'til the seventh generation or so, I guess. So Miami, well, whatcha got in Miami? All kinds of stuff, but like any big city ya got crime. And there's this one crime in particular. Well, a presumed crime. A union official has disappeared. Gone long enough people figure he's deceased. You know, you got unions you got crime, and sooner or later you got people gettin' dead. Usually sooner.

So you got unions and union crime, the Feds gonna be interested, so there's a federal persecutor, sorry, prosecutor, on the case. Now I haven't seen this in quite a few years, so I did some Wickedpedia research, 'cause I remembered the sleazy fed as being Richard Dreyfus. Because sleazy. I don't know much about Dreyfus personally, other than him being a bit of a crackpot politically, but he was pretty good at the sleazy roles. Kinda like Christopher Walken does such an awesome psycho (not to omit Rutger Hauer from that category), Dreyfus does a pretty good weasel act. Especially the comical weasel in "Krippendorf's Tribe". I'll let off him the hook completely for that. Anyway, in this case the weasel wasn't Dreyfus. Dude name of Bob Balaban, of whom I know nothing. Anyway, good weasel. As in well played.

Anyway, the weasel prosecutor ain't makin' much progress on the case, so in Fed SOP (yep, even in 1980) he decides to get things moving. How better than to the the 'news media' to help? Find a sleazy 'journalist' (no difficulty there) and drag the bait. See what happens.

So he gets a reporterette in his office, leaves a file with details of a bogus investigation in Mr. Gallagher, suggesting he is a suspect. Well, journos are like - hmm, lessee. Well, sharks I guess. See a helpless dolphin or seal or something, move in and chow down. Pretty good analogy. Sharks in a feeding frenzy have been observed bite anything they can get their jaws close to. Including parts of themselves that have been ripped off by their fellow sharks. Works for me, but I like hyenas, and vultures too. And maggots and tubifex worms. They all have a kinship with their two-legged relatives.

Anyhows, we got our sleazy reporterette. Well played by Sally Field. OK, I'm goin' out on a weak limb here, sayin' she ever did anything well. Acting-wise. OK, not goin' there. Will just say, like Joe Bob Briggs used to intro his films (when she was involved) as having "gratuitous Shelley Hack". Sure he was just playin' around, nothing agin Shelley. But in my case I think of films as having "gratuitous Sally Field" in a similar way. Not that I dislike her. She's a little wacky, like Dreyfus, but harmless Anyway, she gets the job done.

So she takes a look at the file he conveniently leaves her alone with, and we're off. Make up a story and print it in the big city newspaper. Union shuts down Gallagher's business (because union) and his uncle (who is a crime boss) gets suspicious. Gallagher don't know what happenin'. Meanwhile, a friend, a very nice, sweet, and sadly naive young lady, talks to the shark, uh, reporterette. Tells her Gallagher couldn't have done it 'cause he was out of town when it happened. Admits he took her somewhere to have an abortion. Nice Catholic girl, very ashamed, don't want it known. What's the reporterette's name, hang on.. Megan. Please don't tell anyone, the nice guilt-ridden Catholic girl says. Please. Megan runs the story. Nice girl sees it in newspaper. Commits suicide. Did I mention she was a Catholic?

That scene was very hard to watch. Don't like even thinking about it, after all these years. Acerbicidity, or whatever the proper word is, courses through my veins. Arteries too. Better since the bypass surgery 'bout a year ago. (The good doctors at Saint Barnyards done a good job (hey, quarter mil, they should) but then they tried to kill me by sending me to convalesce at a vertitable hellhole known as the "Arkansas Continued Care Hospital of Jonesboro" in Jonesboro, Arkansas. Where else? Anyway, it was more like coalescing, into a paralyzed near-corpse. But that little affair is chronicled elsewhere. Lemme finish this.) Actually, 'coursing' is just the obligatory poetic term. It's actually being forced under considerable pressure by that organ they operated on. Sometimes too high, accordin' to the doc. Hence the diltiazem pills. But it was very sad. Hence Mr. Gallagher's subsequent rage.

Like a lot of Paul Newman's roles, Gallagher is calm, cool, just-don't-do-bad-stuff-to-me-and-I-won't-bother-you kinda guy. Seems like a real nice feller. But someone done some bad thangs to him in a major way. More to the point, they done it to a really nice-sweet-kind-gentle-lovable (not being cute here, like I said, it was awful) innocent person. More on that later.

He'll fix'em as best he can.

Evidently he got a little money. Guess the liquor business been good to him. He sets up a little deal where a politician gets some contributions, the investigation gets squashed, it looks like the prosecutors and all been doin' something dirty. (In the real world, when are they ever not?) Newspaper prints a story real quick, don't take time to get it right. Now there big political hubbub. Now they gotta have investigation. Assistant U.S. Attorney General and all. Luckily, after sufferin' gratuitous Sally Field fer an hour or so, we get us an appearance the the always charming Wilford Brimley. Worth the wait. He sets'em straight real quick. Sleazy persecutor started it all, he gone. Other dude that weren't too smart, gonna lose his job too. The sleazy reporterette skates, of course. Don't they always? Gallagher doesn't even seem so mad at her at the end. Of course, he got'em. As she says. Or as he tells her "You got yourselves."

A sad note in the whole thing. Perhaps the saddest.

Assistant AG Wells tells Gallagher, talkin' about the setup:

Wells: Mr Gallagher...I seem to want to ask if you set all this up. If I do, you ain't gonna tell me, are you? No. You're a smart man, Mr. Gallagher. I'm pretty smart myself. Don't get too smart.

Gallagher: Everybody in this room is smart, and everybody was just doing their job, and Teresa Perrone is dead. Who do I see about that?

Wells: Ain't nobody to see. I wish there was. You're excused, sir.”

Anyway, good movie. Glad I finally watched it when I did. Might watch again someday if I have time. That was some forty years ago, and things were like that then. Worse, really. 60 Minutes, Mike Wallace coverin' for LBJ and NcNamara and assassinating the character of General Westmoreland, trucks rigged to explode for an 'investigative' news show ('cause they wouldn't blow up the way the news people promised they would, 'journalists' sabotaging the cleaning equipment in a grocery store to make a story (accidentally recording themselves doin' it), Dan Rather doin' a show with faked military records (on a presidential candidate) so fake they were detected a few minutes into the show the first time it was aired, CNN was probably around by then. Worse stuff happened really, regularly. Of course we can see how bad it is today. If we're awake.

About a year later Newman appeared in "The Verdict", a little different sort of character, in a legal drama. It was pretty good too. No gratuitous Sally Field though. Don't believe so. Nah, they wouldn't. Alright already. Gonna look in Wickedpedia. Justasec... Hmmm, cool. It had Roxanne Hart. Highlander. Always liked her. Interestingly, another film with her I liked (what kinda sentence is this? I'm sposed to be educated.) was "The Last Innocent Man", a TV movie (pretty good, actually) with Ed Harris, whom I remember likin' in some films, back in the day. Gittin' old.

Don't care fer me talkin' the way Baer Creighton talks/thinks in his narratives? Too bad. I like it. Get used to it. He's a guy got done wrong and worked out a way to deal with it, and he love his dog. Likes dogs in general, I suspect. Clayton Linedmuth's books are recommended, but suggest learning what he's about afore readin'em. He's complex.

'night kiddos. Dunno what Dr. Jeffrey Mengle... sorry Copeland, at Arkansas Continued Care Hospital of Jonesboro, Arkansas did with them drugs, but my dreams for those months he had me incarcerated were pretty wild, letmetellya. And of course CEO James Cox of that institution fer sure don't know or care. Maybe my lawyer can ask him about it someday. Anyway, a year later, brain may not be quite right yet, can't speculate as to whether it ever will be, but the dreams are usually not bad.

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Absence of Malice at IMDB
Absence of Malice at Wickedpedia
The Verdict at IMDB
The Verdict at Wickedpedia
Paul Newman at IMDB
Paul Newman at Wickedpedia
Wed 01 Jun 2022 06:23:13 AM UTC : 1654064593