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  • Hamish Hart

Presumed Innocent (2024) Series Review

RATING: 7/10

SOME of the most successful American television shows to come out of the late 1990s/early 2000s have two things in common: a courtroom setting, and David E. Kelley. The former attorney was responsible for a plethora of legal dramas, most notably Boston Legal and Ally McBeal, applying his real-life profession into the fictional setting in order to get the most out of any series. But for all his worth, Kelley's latest endeavour as showrunner for Apple TV series Presumed Innocent proves that his arguably archaic creative input was unnecessary, and like the man himself, better left in the past in order for this promising courtroom drama to flourish.

Based on Scott Turow's 1987 legal thriller novel of the same name, Presumed Innocent opens with Rusty Sabich (Jake Gyllenhaal); one of many Prosecuting Attorneys for the Chicago district. He is depicted as a loving father and devoted husband, but an unexpected phone call from work soon alters his life in ways he couldn't have possibly imagined: his work partner and close friend, Carolyn Polhemus (Renate Reinsve), has been murdered. News of this brutal murder sends shockwaves through the Chicago Prosecuting Attorneys' office, including Rusty's colleague Raymond (Bill Camp), and rival Tommy Molto (Peter Sarsgaard). Further shockwaves are sent when Rusty is suspected of the crime, resulting in a case where Sabich must prove his innocent to the city, his family, and himself.

This isn't the first time Presumed Innocent has received an on-screen adaptation; the courtroom drama was first adapted in 1990 by Alan J. Pakula -- the Oscar-nominated director/producer behind Sophie's Choice, All the President's Men, and To Kill a Mockingbird -- and received critical-acclaim due to compelling performances from Harrison Ford, Raul Julia, on top of boasting a script which demands the audience's full attention. While the series never attains the same heights as the film in terms of quality, this Apple TV adaptation still manages to achieve levels of quality that wouldn't look out of place during Kelley's heyday by conveying a well-told, powerful narrative -- even if said narrative has been told twice before.

Performances from the show's lead cast -- most notably Jake Gyllenhaal and Peter Sarsgaard -- carry the brunt of Presumed Innocent, proving their undisputed worth through emotionally-driven scenes which showcase Rusty and Tommy's heated rivalry; a rivalry which grows exponentially and becomes intensely-bitter as the series progresses. However, the series' cast isn't littered with hits; there are certain scenes involving Nico Della Guardia (O-T Fagbenle), Tommy's wife Barbara Sabich (Ruth Negga), and Renate Reinsve which lack a certain amount of "oomph" needed from their respective characters - especially when you factor in their level of importance in the story. But this doesn't take away from the positive side to their performances, which at their best, are outstanding and add weight to some of the show's most nerve-racking moments.

Presumed Innocent excels when it demands your full attention, managing to captivate the audience through strenuous situations and twists and turns which, while predictable, provide viewers with an intriguing plot and enough fun to make Apple TV's latest star-studded series worth the eight-episode watch. By sticking to his wheelhouse, David E. Kelley has helped produce another by-the-numbers legal thriller that will most certainly satisfy that "courtroom-itch" fans of the former attorney's work have been craving -- even if it does take some time getting there.


About Me

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Born in Longreach in Central West Queensland, I have undertaken a number of prominent roles across the region such as Journalist and Digital Media for The Longreach Leader, as well as appearing on critically-acclaimed radio stations ABC Western Queensland and 4LG and West FM to discuss all things film.

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