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Paramount Studios presents
The Accused (1988)

Kathryn: Were you dressed provocatively? Showing a lot of cleavage, see-through blouse?
Sarah : What the f*** difference does it matter how I was dressed? They tore it off of me.
Kathryn: But did how you dress make those guys think they could have sex with you? Did you put on a show?
Sarah: What the hell are you talking about? You saw me at the hospital. What do you think, that I asked for that?

- Kelly McGillis, Jodie Foster

Review By: Jeff Ulmer   
Published: April 16, 2002

Stars: Kelly McGillis, Jodie Foster
Other Stars: Bernie Coulson, Leo Rossi, Carmen Argenziano, Ann Hearn, Steve Antin, Woody Brown, Scott Paulin, Terry David Mulligan, Kim Kondrashoff, Stephen E. Miller, Andrew Kavadas, Tom McBeath, Barney O'Sullivan
Director: Jonathan Kaplan

Manufacturer: IFPI
MPAA Rating: R for (language, nudity, graphic depiction of gang rape)
Run Time: 01h:50m:24s
Release Date: April 16, 2002
UPC: 097360176049
Genre: drama

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer
B A-B+A- D

DVD Review

According to RAINN (Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network), a sexual assault occurs every two minutes in the United States, and one sixth of the female population will experience a rape or attempted rape in their lifetime. Less than thirty percent of these instances are ever reported to police. In Jonathan Kaplan's 1988 The Accused, the subject is given feature film status, based on a trial that gained national attention when a woman was gang raped on a pool table at Big Dan's Tavern in New Bedford, Massachusetts on March 6, 1983. Besides the sentences handed those directly involved, the significance in this case was that a bystander was convicted for being part of a "joint enterprise" facilitating the crime. Jodie Foster won an Oscar® for her performance as Sarah Tobias, a woman gang raped at a local tavern. Kelly McGillis plays her court appointed attorney, a prosecutor whose job is to only take cases to trial she is guaranteed to win. The Accused exposes many of the realities about the crime of rape and its social stigma, in which the victim, rather than the perpetrators, are more often than not the one that is put on trial.

Immediately following the crime, and after an invasive medical examination, Tobias meets her lawyer, assistant district attorney Kathryn Murphy (McGillis), who escorts her back to the scene to identify her attackers. Later, when she begins consulting with her client, the tone of the questions place the blame on Tobias—what kind of clothes she was wearing, how much she'd had to drink, whether she had ever been in trouble with the law. Tobias is in no way a saint, and in Murphy's eyes will not make a strong witness, especially when the girlfriend who had been with her at the bar indicates Sarah had joked about sleeping with one of her attackers before the crime was committed. Knowing Tobias wants to see the men punished, Murphy cuts a deal with their lawyers, settling on a lesser, non-sexual charge that will see them serving time, but will "look better" on their records. Tobias is outraged, betrayed by the fact that no acknowledgement has been made that she was indeed raped, and that her attackers are only convicted of reckless endangerment, a charge she doesn't even understand. Murphy feels it was the best she could do, but when in a fit of rage Tobias rams her car into the truck of one of the spectators at the bar, the lawyer begins to recognize the conviction this woman has to have her story told. Citing an obscure felony violation, she launches a campaign against the bystanders who incited the rape, despite extreme opposition from her office, who feel the case is unwinnable.

It is clear that the film's title is a double entendre. Foster delivers in her role as the fiery young woman coming to terms with what has happened to her, herself accused of somehow provoking her attack. In a key exchange with McGillis, Foster voices what many women who have experienced the horror of being raped had never heard—that no matter what they did or how they behaved prior to being assaulted, they were not responsible for what happened—an important message supported by the Supreme Court in the New Bedford trial. What actually occurred in the bar is left until the last half of the film, in a replay of the rape in front of a crowd of onlookers, yelling and encouraging the activities they were witness to. This is not a comfortable watch, and the director has been accused of missing the mark with the graphic nature of the scene, but there is a realism here that underscores its atrociousness. Audience participation in the character's medical exam, and having to face up to her attackers (which happened in the real case) adds to the unsettling nature. The film is not without its faults, and does stretch credibility at times; however, some details aside, The Accused deserves to be seen for its serious presentation of its subject matter.

Rating for Style: B
Rating for Substance: A-


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio1.85:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyes

Image Transfer Review: Paramount's 1.85:1 anamorphic transfer looks natural, with noticible, but well rendered grain, and little edge enhancement. Colors are muted, the image is a touch soft in places, but detail both in highlight and show is preserved. This is easily the best this film has looked since the theater.

Image Transfer Grade: B+


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0English, Frenchyes
Dolby Digital

Audio Transfer Review: Audio is available in English 5.1 and English and French 2.0 stereo surround tracks. The sound is clear, with good use of directionality in the front soundstage, where the vast majority of the track is focused, with the surround channels barely utilised except for the score and subtle sound effects. Aside from a little more presence in the discrete track, all three options are very similar in quality of presentation. Dialogue is clear, and no major technical deficiencies were noted.

Audio Transfer Grade: A-


Disc Extras

Static menu
Scene Access with 14 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English with remote access
1 Original Trailer(s)
Packaging: Amaray
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: RSDL

Extras Review: Considering the landmark nature of the case that inspired this film, and the fact that this earned Foster her first Best Actress Oscar®, it is disappointing that no supplements other than a trailer are provided.

Extras Grade: D


Final Comments

Inspired by a landmark trial, The Accused tackles the disturbing complexities surrounding how both the perpetrators and the victims of rape are seen by society and the judicial system. Jody Foster delivers a standout performance, in a film where the subject matter deserves to be taken seriously.


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