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Absence of Malice

Updated on July 29, 2011

Firstly, I will briefly review a 1981 film entitled Absence of Malice. I give this film a four stars. It stars Paul Newman as Michael Gallagher the son of bootlegger and possible mob insider, and Sally Fields as Meghan Carter a journalist for the local newspaper in Miami. I find that the film captures the love-hate relationship between citizen and newspaper.

The government, specifically some organized crime task force, gives Carter some information under the table which implies that Gallagher is under investigation. Gallagher, however, is not under investigation because though his family is connected to the mob he is a straight guy. Carter publishes the story, and the task force hopes it will put pressure on Gallagher to give them evidence on the death of Joe Diaz. Of course, Gallagher does not have this information because, one again, he is not involved in the mob. Obviously, Gallagher gets a little pissed this story is in the paper and that Carter will not reveal her source. Later in the film, after Gallagher's friend commits suicide for some personal information related to the case is published in the paper by Carter. Gallagher then exacts his revenge against everyone by making it look like he is bribing the District Attorney, causing the paper to publish the story and then become embarrassed when it finds out no one is being bribed. As one can see the newspaper provides a check on government; however, in some cases false information or personal information causes people to hate the newspaper. Another great element to the film is Wilford Brimley as Assistant U.S. Attorney General James A. Wells who is only in the film for about fifteen minutes. He arrives in Miami to hold a meeting between Gallagher, carter, the District Attorney, and the task force.

Basically, Wells is the only good government employee. He lets Gallagher go and admires his intelligence in dealing with the matter. He tells Carter he can't stop what she is doing because it would be wrong for the government to do so, but he also points out that doesn't mean what she is doing is right. He then tells the District Attorney he wasn't careful enough and he might consider resigning. Finally, he fires the man in charge of the task force. If more people like Wells were running the government there would probably be fewer problems.


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      Kathleen Cochran 

      8 years ago

      As a former reporter myself, and a former editor, I loved this movie from the first day in the theaters. They both made major mistakes. I think the reporter learned something from hers. I don't think the editor did and I'm afraid too often that's how you become an editor. Great review.


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