Director: Peter Yates

Year: 1987
Country: USA

Tagline: No matter the cost, No matter the danger. They will find the truth.

Production Companies: TriStar Pictures, ML Delphi Premier Productions

Cast: Cher, Dennis Quaid, Liam Neeson, John Mahoney, Joe Mantegna, Philip Bosco, E. Katherine Kerr, Fred Melamed, Lisbeth Bartlett, Rosemary Knower, Bill Cobbs, Richard Gant

Writer: Eric Roth

Produced by: Jennifer Ogden, Daniel A. Sherkow, John Veitch

Original Music by: Michael Kamen

Cinematography by: Billy Williams

Film Editing by: Ray Lovejoy

Genre: Crime | Drama | Thriller

Runtime: 121 min

Release Date:

23 October 1987 USA
19 November 1987 Argentina
22 January 1988 Portugal
11 February 1988 Netherlands
18 February 1988 Australia
3 March 1988 West Germany
17 March 1988 Belgium (Gent)
22 April 1988 Denmark
22 April 1988 Sweden
May 1988 UK
4 May 1988 Spain
13 May 1988 Finland
17 June 1988 Ireland
18 October 1988 Philippines (Davao)
22 November 1990 Hungary

Opening Weekend: $4,152,015 (USA)

US Gross: $18,782,400

Filming Dates: February 1987

Filming Location:

Toronto (Ontario, Canada); Washington (District of Columbia, USA)





Plot summary:


In Washington DC, Carl Wayne Anderson (Liam Neeson) is a homeless, deaf-mute Vietnam veteran accused of murdering Elizabeth Quinn, a file clerk at the Justice Department. Kathleen Riley (Cher) is the beleaguered D.C. public defender assigned to represent Anderson.

An agribusiness lobbyist who normally works on Capitol Hill, Eddie Sanger (Dennis Quaid), is approved as a member of the jury by Riley despite his attempt to be excused. Sanger begins investigating the details of the murder himself, eventually teaming up with Riley beyond the observation of the trial's suspicious judge.

Sanger also keeps busy in his work as a lobbyist on Capitol Hill, including his efforts to win passage of a bill by seducing a Congresswoman.

Around Christmas, a United States Supreme Court Justice commits suicide, for which no explanation or context is given. We only see the Justice making a tape recording and then shooting himself. Shortly after the suicide, Elizabeth Quinn's body is found floating in the Potomac River, and Carl Wayne Anderson is arrested for the crime, based almost entirely on the fact that he was seen sleeping in Quinn's car the night of her murder.

The car was abandoned in the desolate K Street parking lot. Anderson, it is eventually revealed, found the car unlocked and was just looking for a warm place to sleep since it was the dead of winter. But since he was homeless, had no alibi, and was also found in possession of Quinn's wallet, he was arrested for her murder.

Riley finds it difficult to communicate with Anderson, a deaf-mute. Over time, she begins to penetrate his hard exterior and he tries to cooperate with her efforts to mount a defense for him.

As the investigation by Riley, with unethical assistance from Sanger, intensifies, they begin focusing on Deputy Attorney General Paul Gray (Philip Bosco). Figuring that a key found on the victim's body has something to do with the Justice Department (where Quinn worked), Riley and Sanger break into the file department at the Justice Department late one night and try to find what the key unlocks. They find a file cabinet, which contained trial transcripts from federal cases from 1968 that Quinn was in the process of transcribing.

The trial is conducted by stern federal judge Matthew Helms (John Mahoney). Helms is rumored to be the President's nominee for a seat on the prestigious United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia. Judge Helms begins to suspect that Riley may be collaborating with Sanger, which would be a disbarrable offense of jury tampering, although he does not have concrete proof.

In a law library, Riley and Sanger narrowly avoid being caught by Judge Helms, who sequesters the jury to avoid any possible further contact between Riley and the juror.

Riley and Sanger suspect that Elizabeth Quinn stumbled onto something and look for any case that might have an impropriety. Fixing a case requires participation from both the prosecutor and the trial judge. Riley and Sanger think they will find evidence that Gray was a prosecutor on a rigged 1968 case, which would be his motive to murder Quinn if she approached Gray about what she found.

Riley goes back to Quinn's car (still impounded where it was found in a government parking lot) and finds an audiotape that the police did not uncover in their half-hearted investigation. The tape is the one made by the Supreme Court Justice who committed suicide. In it, he confesses to conspiring to fix a case in 1968 (with a politically influential defendant) in return for an appointment from the United States District Court to the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia.

Riley assumes the prosecutor on that case was Gray and goes back to the courthouse to retrieve the case book that will confirm this. She is pursued and attacked by an unseen figure. With the help of Sanger (who managed to get away from being sequestered by creating a diversion with a fire alarm), Riley is able to slice the right wrist of her assailant, who then flees unseen.

Gray shows up in the courtroom, to the surprise of Judge Helms. Riley wants the judge to take the stand. An irate Helms says that Riley cannot make him testify. Riley reveals that it was Helms, not Gray, who was the prosecutor in the fixed case of 1968. In exchange for fixing the case, Helms was nominated to the District Court.

Seventeen years later, Quinn inadvertently discovered the case fixing. At the same time, Helms learned he was a likely nominee for the Court of Appeals. Quinn approached the Supreme Court Justice, who responded by committing suicide. When she approached Judge Helms, however, he murdered her. As the judge angrily bangs his gavel during Riley's accusation, his right wrist begins to bleed from where Riley slashed him the night before, confirming his identity as the killer.

Riley ends up reinvigorated in her job and in a relationship with Sanger.


Reviews and other links:

Rotten Tomatoes - Critic Reviews for Suspect

By Roger Ebert (Chicago Sun-Times)

By Desson Howe (Washington Post)

By Hal Hinson (Washington Post)

By A.J. Hakari (CineSlice)

Cher Scholar - Suspect: Cher's Smartest Film



See all photos in the gallery.

- Cher earned $1,000,000 for this role and was named one of the highest paid actresses in 1987.

- Cher had only one week off between filming Moonstruck and filming Suspect.

- Liam Neeson lived in a Washington D.C. homeless shelter for two days to prepare for his role.

Memorable quotes:


Parking Lot Attendant: [Kathleen has broken into Elizabeth Quinn's car to find evidence] Hey, lady, what do you think you're doing?
Kathleen Riley: [caught off guard] I was her friend.

[Michael sneaks up behind Kathleen and holds a razor to her throat]
Michael: God is angry with the wicked! Why did you send the black devil for me?
Kathleen Riley: [stammering] Because Carl!
Michael: [interrupts] Carl has already been judged! The mighty hand struck him deaf and dumb.
[Michael continually jerks the razor around in a frenzied manor]
Kathleen Riley: [terrified] Okay.
Michael: Only the lord Jesus can take a soul. I saw the angel of death. I watched her die. I saw her spirit leave her body. She gave me a message from the Almighty. A key to the kingdom.
[Michael reveals a key that reads 'Dept. of Justice']
Michael: The innocent shall know the glory of heaven!
[Michael reaches to slash Kathleen's throat, she's narrowly saved when Eddie appears and wrestles the razor away]
Eddie Sanger: [struggling with Michael] Stop it, asshole!
[Michael slashes Eddie's chest and runs away]


Weekend Chart Record


Date Rank Gross % Change Theaters Per Theater Total Gross Days
1987/10/23 3 $4,152,015   1,029 $4,035   $4,152,015 3
1987/10/30 3 $2,698,811 -35% 1,029 $2,623   $7,891,826 10
1987/11/06 5 $2,617,847 -3% 1,029 $2,544   $11,499,673 17
1987/11/13 5 $2,068,099 -21% 1,018 $2,032   $14,167,772 24
1987/11/20 10 $1,285,500 -38% 857 $1,500   $15,773,272 31
1987/12/11 14 $372,000   620 $600   $18,549,440 52