More ’80s remakes are coming our way, now in the legal subgenre.
Old school thrillers, or those inspired by them, are coming back to the movies in a big way. Or at least they seem to be whenever similar-sounding announcements come out of the woodwork so close to one another. And as is the norm these days, anything to do with the 1980s continues to be a big hit with studios.
Deadline announced that Sony is gearing up for Halle Berry to headline a new take on the lauded courtroom thriller Jagged Edge. The original 1985 classic, which starred Glenn Close and Jeff Bridges, was a notable precursor to the neo-noir erotic thriller Basic Instinct; both films were written by Joe Eszterhas. Jagged Edge was directed by Return of the Jedi‘s Richard Marquand and is considered a hidden gem in his painfully short filmography.
This new version of Jagged Edge will apparently be a priority at the studio, although it doesn’t yet have a screenwriter attached. Therefore, the ways in which this character-driven, high-intensity whodunnit will be updated remains elusive for now.
As long as the conflicted characterizations in each of the film’s main players are kept intact, any other creative liberties shouldn’t be too much of an issue. Jagged Edge is primarily built out of the suspense inherently found in messy relationships. The basic age-old question of trustworthiness is played out in a tightly-woven narrative that mixes up emotional investment and professional responsibility.
In the 1985 film, Jack Forrester (Bridges) is accused of murdering his socialite wife and has to go up against the dogged district attorney Thomas Krasny (Peter Coyote). Forrester then hires high-profile lawyer Teddy Barnes (Close) to defend him. Barnes and Krasny have bad blood between them because of the latter’s lack of ethical standards when closing cases, which caused Barnes to leave criminal law in the first place. When she finds out that a man that she and Krasny had wrongfully indicted for a crime has committed suicide, Barnes decides to take Forrester’s case in a bid to go up against Krasny. As they work together, Barnes and Forrester end up having an affair, which greatly complicates the case and puts more lives at stake. In many ways, Barnes — the protagonist — is no generic do-gooder, just as Forrester and Krasny don’t indisputably fill their requisite roles.
Apart from the film’s distinct characters, the strength of the cast in the original Jagged Edge also elevates the story immensely. Sony’s remake would have to find an actor to match Bridges in his easy charm for their version of Forrester.
As far as Berry is concerned, the role of Barnes could be a good vehicle for a tangible return as a lead actress. She was last seen in Kingsman: The Golden Circle as a supporting cast member, but her historic Best Actress win for Monster’s Ball in 2002 is a reminder of her caliber as an actress. Yet even more than Berry’s bombastic turn in Monster’s Ball is a strong, subtler performance in dramas such as Things We Lost in the Fire. Her role in the latter is a better metric of comparison for a character who’s as troubled and world-weary as Barnes.
The courtroom thriller seems to be a particularly dated concept in modern-day filmmaking, especially when flashy special-effects-filled films take center stage most of the time and there’s a huge focus on franchises. Legal films pepper the current movie landscape every so often — The Judge and Denial spring to mind — but they don’t really make long-lasting impressions. Lists collating the most influential works within the courtroom subgenre tend to include more vintage fare anyway.
Of course, smaller movies in other genres such as horror have been making a comeback (most recently, A Quiet Place), and it is no surprise that Sony is attempting to revive something else from the ’80s. Whether a new Jagged Edge will usher in a whole new era of courtroom thrillers is too early to say, but the studio hasn’t gone wrong in its choice of source material and leading actress.