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‘Physical Evidence’ (R)

By Rita Kempley
Washington Post Staff Writer
January 27, 1989

Has-been he-man Burt Reynolds and remedial line-reader Theresa Russell join forces in the fiasco "Physical Evidence," a showcase for Russell's amateurism, the director's ineptitude and the screenwriter's clogged pen. (Don't blame Burt.)

It's a mystery as dumb as pigeons that moves at the pace at which pots boil. Nevertheless, it is Russell's complete incompetence that overshadows all the rest.

Last seen in "Black Widow," the actress here plays Jenny Hudson, an allegedly aggressive lawyer who would sacrifice her client's welfare to become an "AG" (attorney general). But Russell offers us an F. Lee Baby, a petulant nincompoop who wouldn't know briefs from boxer shorts or a bench from a bar stool. Her client Joe Paris (Reynolds) is a street-smart cop who is accused of killing an underground piece of muck. As an alcoholic widower who lives like a pig, Joe is the opposite to which our heroine is inevitably drawn. So what else is new?

Joe's history of violence and the physical evidence against him give the D.A. (Ned Beatty) an airtight case. And so Jenny and Joe set out to find the real killer among the herring. During this mechanical quest, the squabbling protagonists find they are meant for each other. Lukewarmth is achieved.

The sex symbol of the stock car set is comfortably typecast, but he just can't rev his engine like he used to could. No longer a good ol' boy toy, Reynolds approaches his rough and tumble role in a Perry Como mode. It doesn't work, but at least he doesn't look terrified, as do the rest of the cast, when obliged to play a scene with the leading lady.

A judge warns Jenny early on, "I can do without the dramatics." Of course, there aren't any. Bad movies almost always write their own epitaphs.

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