Picks and Pans Review: Under Suspicion

updated 03/09/1992 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 03/09/1992 AT 01:00 AM EST

Liam Neeson, Laura San Giacomo

In this twisty thriller, a man's fate hangs quite literally by a thumb. Tony Aaron (Neeson) is a disgraced policeman turned seedy detective, a charming rogue whose hands are either in someone else's pocket or on someone else's wife. It's Christmas 1959 in Brighton, England, and Tony is dispensing comfort and joy as he knows best: staging fake adulteries, with the help of his wife, for those desperately seeking divorces. (As English law then had it, adultery was one of the few ways to get out of a marriage.)

Tony's got the routine down pat: Have his wife and client check into a hotel, wait a decent interval, then break in, snapping the incriminating photos. But this night, the charade goes awry. Tony bursts in only to find his wife murdered along with the client, a famous painter. The culprit has also hacked off the artist's thumb, the means by which he had always "signed" his canvases. A prime suspect, Tony sets out to clear his name, a quest made more difficult when he becomes entangled with the artist's mistress (San Giacomo), herself a suspect.

Under Suspicion, which puts a deft spin on such classic films noirs as Double Indemnity, is as well-crafted as a Swiss watch until the preposterous climax. Still, the movie is beautiful to look at and, despite some silly dialogue and San Giacomo's parody of a screen siren, fun to watch. Kenneth Cranham is highly effective as a police inspector torn between duty and loyalty. And Neeson, with his Irish burr and long, slow smile, is the sort of guy who gives sleaze a good name. (R)

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