Benefit of the Doubt

MPAA Rating: R

Entertainment: +1 1/2

Content: -3 1/2

Donald Sutherland plays Frank Braswell, a man convicted for the murder of his wife some twenty years ago. He is paroled and returns to Arizona to see his daughter, Karen (Amy Irving), now 34. Karen is a single-parent waitressing in a topless bar and trying to raise her 11 year old son, Pete (Rider Strong). Karen is initially very wary of her father, as it was her testimony which convicted him. Frank, however, quickly befriends young Pete and indicates that he wants to look after Pete and Karen. When Karen's boyfriend Dan (Christopher McDonald) wants to marry her, Frank kills him. The theme of family values and forgiveness quickly erodes into a mindless and bloody chase of Pete and Karen. BENEFIT OF THE DOUBT does not even rise to the level of a slasher/thriller though it uses all the cliches. Donald Sutherland's best efforts to add some depth to the plot cannot save it.

Apparently, the producers felt constrained to add gratuitous sexual situations and gory violence. Karen's job in a topless bar seems superfluous except to show full female frontal nudity several times. Intercourse is implied between Karen and Dan twice, though they are not shown in bed and the scenes are without nudity. One of the most offensive scenes reveals the depths of Frank's perversity. He sneaks into Karen's bedroom at night and attempts to have intercourse with her while she sleeps, an abuse she also suffered as a child. Frank implies that only freaks believe in "family values." He breaks Dan's nose and shoves him off a tall building, kills an officer by kicking him repeatedly in the head and stomach and standing on his throat, then shoots another in the chest at close range. Along with the sex and graphic violence, 26 obscenities tumble out of actors' mouths, as well as sexually suggestive comments. The violence, sexual situations and offensive language constitute an iron-clad case to avoid this repugnant film.

Preview Reviewer: Greg Wilson
Miramax Films, 18 E. 48th St., Ste 1601, NY, NY 10017

The following categories contain objective listings of film content which contribute to the subjective numeric Content ratings posted to the left and on the Home page.

Crude Language: Many (19) times - Mild 11; Moderate 8

Obscene Language: Many (26) times (s-word 10 times; f-word 14; 2 others)

Profanity: Many (15) times - Regular 13; Exclamatory 2

Violence: Several times - Severe (man hit in nose and shoved off building, man kicked repeatedly and choked to death, two men shot in chest, one grabbed in genitals, little boy slapped, man pushed off cliff)

Sex: Implied twice, and attempted once by father with daughter, no nudity

Nudity: Several (full female frontal in topless bar)

Sexual Dialogue/Gesture: Few times - references to intercourse

Drugs: None

Other: Villain makes fun of family values

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