10 June 2003 | petershelleyau
or Give me some Hard Evidence for the Day of Reckoning
This made-for-TV movie based on a true story is so low-key it makes Mike Nichols' similar-themed feature Silkwood (1983) look like a masterpiece. Here one's empathy is with the badies through sheer apathy about the good guys.
In an un-named town in Georgia, Sandra (Kate Jackson) works as a secretary for the Wiley Lumber Company, where inappropriate behavior and corruption are blatant. Although the company's association with the Department of Labor's Commissioner Sam Caldwell (Dean Stockwell) is less clear, it is obvious to Sandra, who decides to blow the whistle on what she sees as fraud, with the help of her romantic interest and co-worker Tommy Marchant (John Shea).
The teleplay by Richard Rashke has some half-amusing southern wit. "He needs a new car the way Georgia needs another peanut farm". "You left a trail so wide a blind coon dog could follow it". "He's inside the coop. He knows where the eggs are". "They're like mean old tics. One smell of blood and they borough right on in". And "Georgia's half swamp. Sources have been known to disappear". However all the "You'll"'s and "Sugar"'s grow tiresome, and we even have the cliched exchange "Why should we trust you? You don't have much of a choice".
A break-in without gloves being worn is just a stupid lack of attention, and the hostility of Sandra's neglected son Shane is only addressed when he comes to admire his mother for the crusade, which seems ludicrous. Another co-worker of Sandra, Beth (Jennifer Guthrie) is forced to prostitute, and an expectation is created that Sandra will also be asked, but this is not met, and Beth practically disappears.
Rashke presents Sandra as a divorced mother of two, who also arranges flowers in her spare time, but she doesn't actually do anything until she wears a wire for the FBI late in proceedings. This scene finally provides Jackson with something to play, and she even gets a flattering close-up, but otherwise she is only marginally less stoic than Shea. Wearing her hair in bangs and a perm, she falls back on big-eye acting. Together Shea and Jackson do not make a very sizzling team, perhaps influenced by their facial similarities. As one of the Company managers, Beth Broderick has little to do except act blowsy, though she does supply some lesbian subtext, and a barely competent Gustave Johnson as the FBI agent steals scenes easily from Jackson and Shea.
Director Jan Egleson uses a tilted camera, a flashlight shone into the camera, hand-held, and black & white freezes when photograph's are taken, but the twangy guitar in the music score of composer David McHugh's is over-used. It's also hard to accept a tale about the abuse of women told by a director who introduces an actress by her legs, humiliates another in a rape scene, and drools over bikini-clad babes.