Malice (film)

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Original poster
Directed by Harold Becker
Produced by Harold Becker
Charles Mulvehill
Rachel Pfeffer
Screenplay by Aaron Sorkin
Scott Frank
Story by Aaron Sorkin
Jonas McCord
Starring Alec Baldwin
Nicole Kidman
Bill Pullman
Peter Gallagher
Bebe Neuwirth
Josef Sommer
Anne Bancroft
George C. Scott
Music by Jerry Goldsmith
Cinematography Gordon Willis
Edited by David Bretherton
Distributed by Columbia Pictures
Release dates
October 1, 1993
Running time
106 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Budget $20 million (estimated)
Box office Domestic:

Malice is a 1993 American psychological thriller film directed by Harold Becker. The screenplay by Aaron Sorkin and Scott Frank is based on a story by Jonas McCord. It stars Alec Baldwin, Nicole Kidman and Bill Pullman.


Andy (Bill Pullman) and Tracy Safian (Nicole Kidman) are a happily married couple living in a Victorian house that they are restoring in Western Massachusetts. He is an Associate Dean at a local college, while his wife teaches art to children. When a student is attacked by what could be a serial rapist, her life is saved by Dr. Jed Hill (Alec Baldwin), a brilliant surgeon who has recently joined the staff of the area hospital.

Andy recognizes Jed from high school. Money is tight, so Andy invites him to rent the third floor of his home with Tracy in order to finance the new plumbing. With his propensity to bring home sexual partners and to party late into the night, Jed quickly proves himself to be a less-than-ideal tenant.

When student Paula Bell (Gwyneth Paltrow) is attacked and killed, Andy finds her body in the garden behind her home, prompting Andy's friend, Detective Dana Harris (Bebe Neuwirth), to view him as a possible suspect.

While at the police station delivering a semen sample, Andy learns his wife has been hospitalized and is being operated on by Jed. In removing one of Tracy's ovaries, which has ruptured due to a cyst, Jed discovers Tracy is pregnant, but the stress of the procedure causes the fetus to abort.

Another doctor notices that Tracy's other ovary is torsed and appears necrotic. Jed consults with Andy and advises him to agree to the removal of Tracy's second ovary, rather than risk her life. Andy painfully agrees, since this will mean that Tracy can never have children. Jed overrules the protests of other doctors that the ovary might still be healthy and he removes it. The second ovary was in fact healthy. Jed, rather than bury the report, faces the consequences of his actions.

At a deposition, Jed's attorney Lester Adams (Josef Sommer) learns his client had been drinking prior to the surgery. His case is not helped when Jed responds to an accusation that he has a god complex by declaring that as far as medicine is concerned, he is God. His insurance company settles with Tracy for $20 million. She leaves Andy, not forgiving him for the loss of her ability to ever have children.

Andy accidentally discovers that the serial rapist is Earl Leemus (Tobin Bell), the college handyman, and apprehends him. After he tells Dana that Tracy had been pregnant before the surgery, the detective informs Andy that his semen sample indicated he is sterile and couldn't have fathered Tracy's child. Andy confronts Tracy's lawyer, Dennis Riley (Peter Gallagher), accusing him of having impregnated Tracy and colluding with her. Riley denies everything and suggests that Tracy’s mother might be able to offer him some insight. Andy was under the impression she was dead.

In return for a bottle of single malt whiskey, Mrs. Kennsinger (Anne Bancroft) tells Andy the truth about her supposedly sweet daughter: Tracy is a con artist. She had a relationship with a wealthy man who paid her to have an abortion, but Tracy kept the money and had it done illegally. Her mother also confirms Andy's suspicion that Tracy was pregnant by a Dr. David Lilianfield, who ultimately proves to be Jed.

Back at home, Andy discovers a hypodermic needle containing the fertility drug Perganol. He learns that an excess amount of the drug can cause painful ovarian cysts, thereby realizing that Tracy deliberately created her illness with Jed's help. An angry Andy confronts Tracy and tells her he wants half the settlement money. Also, if he should meet with an unexpected death, a letter will immediately be sent to the police department, directing them to interview the young boy next door. He implies that the boy, frequently seen sitting at his bedroom window, was a witness to the activities of Jed and Tracy.

Jed's reaction to Andy's demands is to give him what he wants. Tracy angrily refuses, saying that there was no way she was splitting it three ways. Tracy says they have to get rid of the witness because that is the only bargaining chip that Andy has on them. He refuses and slaps her for suggesting that they murder a young boy. Tracy attempts to pressure him into it but Jed won't go along, so Tracy pulls a gun and shoots him.

That night, Tracy waits until the neighbor's nurse next door leaves. She lures Andy away from his house with a misleading phone call, then breaks in and tries to smother the boy. When she wraps cellophane around his face from behind, she realizes that it's a dummy and she has been set up. Andy surprises her. Detective Harris, who was disguised as the nurse, returns and makes the arrest. As Tracy is led away, she sees the boy and his mother return. It is revealed that the boy is, in fact, blind.



Malice was shot on location in Boston, Amherst, Holyoke, and Northampton in Massachusetts. Smith College was the setting used for Andy's college.

Michael Hirsh and Patrick Loubert, two of the co-founders of Canadian animation studio Nelvana, worked as executive producers on the film.[1]

Malice opened on 1,431 screens in the U.S. on October 1, 1993 and grossed $9,232,650 during its opening weekend, ranking #1 at the box office. It eventually earned a total of $46,405,336 in the US.[2]

Critical reception[edit]

Malice earned mixed reviews from critics, holding a 53% rating on Rotten Tomatoes based on 19 reviews.

Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times called the film "one of the busiest movies I've ever seen, a film jampacked with characters and incidents and blind alleys and red herrings. Offhand, this is the only movie I can recall in which an entire subplot about a serial killer is thrown in simply for atmosphere." He added, "I can't go into detail without revealing vital secrets. Yet after the movie is over and you try to think through those secrets, you get into really deep molasses . . . Malice was directed by Harold Becker, whose credits include the splendid films The Onion Field and Sea of Love, and he milks this material for a great deal more than it is worth." [3]

Peter Travers of Rolling Stone observed, "Goaded on by writer Aaron Sorkin, who could run a red-herring factory, the actors work to keep you guessing long after you've caught on. No one shows any shame about going over the top, especially Anne Bancroft in an Oscar-begging cameo as Tracy's mother. Perhaps director Harold Becker thought flashy acting could distract us from the gaping plot holes. Becker gets so intent on confusing us, he forgets to give us characters to care about . . . It's got suspense but no staying power." [4]

Timothy M. Gray of Variety said, "The immaculately crafted Malice is a virtual scrapbook of elements borrowed from other suspense pix, but no less enjoyable for being so familiar. [It] should tickle audiences who want to be entertained without being challenged . . . Some of the plotting gets plodding . . . but on the whole, the script does what it set out to do, and if the filmmakers didn't worry about these things, neither should you . . . After listless performances in such pics as Days of Thunder and Far and Away, Aussie Kidman, who here uses a flawless American accent, proves her strengths as an actress, and Baldwin mixes menace, sex and humor in another terrific performance." [5]

American Film Institute recognition:

Cultural references[edit]

In the 30 Rock episode "St. Valentine's Day", Jack Donaghy, portrayed by Baldwin, confesses to a priest that he once said "I am God" during a deposition. This is a reference to a famous line by Jed Hill, Baldwin's character in this film.[7]


  1. ^ Adilman, Sid (October 6, 1993). "Toronto producers share movie gravy". Toronto Star. Torstar Corporation. p. D.2. Retrieved August 15, 2010. (registration required (help)). 
  2. ^ "Box office information for Malice". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved August 15, 2010. 
  3. ^ Chicago Sun-Times review
  4. ^ Rolling Stone review
  5. ^ Variety review
  6. ^ AFI's 100 Years...100 Movie Quotes Nominees
  7. ^ Jack Burditt, Tina Fey, writers; Don Scardino, director (February 12, 2009). "St. Valentine's Day". 30 Rock. Season 3. Episode 11. NBC. 

External links[edit]