Picks and Pans Review: The Accused

updated 10/24/1988 at 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 10/24/1988 01:00AM

At a roadside bar, a woman—played by Jodie Foster—is held down on a pinball machine and gang-raped. After learning that the woman had been drinking, smoking pot, dressed to thrill and brazenly flirtatious, the assistant district attorney (Kelly McGillis) accepts a plea bargain that puts the three assailants in jail on a lesser charge. Wasn't this babe asking for it? The bruised and battered victim thinks not, but is denied the chance to tell her story in court. Contrite over rushing to judgment, the assistant DA takes unprecedented action: She prosecutes the men who clapped, cheered and goaded on the rapists. According to the filmmakers, no charge of criminal solicitation has ever been brought in a real rape case. The argument that it could be and should be is presented in this probing, provoking and powerfully moving film from the Fatal Attraction product ion team of Sherry Lansing and Stanley Jaffe. McGillis, who recently admitted she was raped by two men in her Manhattan apartment in 1982, brings ringing conviction to her role. It's also hard to forget that Foster had been hounded by a man who tried to kill a President in 1981 in an attempt to attract her attention. As a tough cookie whose self-respect crumbles when her reputation goes on trial, Foster blazes with ferocity and feeling. It's a great performance. Sad to say, the movie is not always up to the integrity of its two leading actresses. Tom (Nuts) Topor's screenplay, inspired by the 1983 case in which a woman was gang-raped in a New Bedford, Mass., tavern while witnesses stood by, is infected with hokey plot contrivances. Brad (Fright Night) Fiedel's score is pure horror-flick manipulation. Even Jonathan Kaplan, the quietly perceptive director of Heart like a Wheel, lapses into the lurid-florid style of his early trash, such as Night Call Nurses. But forget the flaws, the picture works. Its B-movie energy engages. Its shocking rape scene—cutting from victim to rapists to cheering section to do-nothing bystanders—enrages. France, West Germany and the Soviet Union prosecute those who fail to aid someone in danger. The United States, except for Vermont, which levies a $100 fine, does not. The makers of this film are mad as hell about that. They think their urgent, impassioned film might help to change things. Sure they're being naive. So what. Godspeed. (R)

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