An Innocent Man (film)

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An Innocent Man
Innocent man poster.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed by Peter Yates
Produced by Ted Field
Robert W. Cort
Written by Larry Brothers
Music by Howard Shore
Cinematography William A. Fraker
Edited by Joseph Gutowski
Stephen A. Rotter
William S. Scharf
Distributed by Buena Vista Pictures
Release date
  • October 6, 1989 (1989-10-06)
Running time
113 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Box office Domestic:

An Innocent Man is a 1989 American crime drama thriller film directed by Peter Yates, and starring Tom Selleck. The film follows James Rainwood, an airline mechanic sent to prison when framed by crooked police officers.


James "Jimmie" Rainwood (Tom Selleck) is an ordinary and model citizen. Happily married to his beautiful wife Kate (Laila Robins), they have a modest home in Long Beach, California. Jimmie works as an American Airlines engineer, driving a classic Pontiac Firebird.

Detectives Mike Parnell (David Rasche) and Danny Scalise (Richard Young) are cops specializing in drug busts, at the same time framing people and stealing the drugs that should be declared evidence so that they can use it for their own recreational drug use and sell it to dealers.

One day Parnell takes a large hit of cocaine and becomes unable to concentrate properly on the address for the next drug bust, where they expect to find drugs. Instead, they break into the wrong house. Just as Jimmie walks out of the bathroom with a handheld hair dryer in hand, Parnell shoots, thinking it's a weapon. Jimmie is shot in the shoulder and knocked unconscious. Realizing that they could both be tested for taking drugs and charged, they decide to cover up their mistake. They plant drugs in the house and place a firearm in the hand of Jimmies's unconscious body, framing him as a drug dealer. Jimmie is pegged as a user, having a prior record of marijuana possession while in college, and his only defense is his word against two decorated cops. He claims the two cops framed him, but no evidence proves the men are corrupt. He gets a 6-year prison sentence. Internal Affairs detective John Fitzgerald (Badja Djola) takes a mild personal interest in the situation, though he can't do anything due to the only evidence against the corrupt officers being hearsay.

Jimmie is initially naive about prison life. Early in his term he sees his cellmate stabbed with a screwdriver and set on fire, and he then has a personal run in with the Black Guerrilla Family run by Jingles, who took his commissary purchases. After the gang assaults him and further threatens sexual assault, both of which he decides against reporting, he comes to the realization that he has to follow the recommendation of fellow inmates Butcher (Dennis Burkley) and Virgil Cane (F. Murray Abraham) of needing to "take care of his problem."

Jimmie gets a plexiglas shank, stabs Jingles to death, and spends three months in a windowless, subterranean solitary confinement, even though it's never proven he did the job. When he's released to the general population he is received as a minor hero for ridding the prison of Jingles. On the outside, Kate is causing trouble by bringing the situation to the attention of whoever will listen and is subsequently threatened by Parnell and Scalise. Her visit to Fitzgerald went nowhere, so she told him the detectives insulted him racially, which, although a lie, is reinforced when Fitzgerald angrily tells them to stay away from Kate and coincidentally uses the words that Kate said they had used.

Before being paroled after three years served, Virgil suggests to Jimmie that he should get even with the detectives that framed him and clear his name, but instead, Jimmie sets out to regain his life on the outside. He is subsequently paid a visit by the detectives, who indicate that Jimmie's future depends on whether or not he does what they say.

Parnell and Scalise are set up to arrest the dealers of some "competition" that are in reality protected dealers of Joseph Donatelli (J.J. Johnston). Of course, the detectives do not turn over all the drugs and are robbed by masked culprits who, unknown to them, are Jimmie and Malcolm (M.C. Gainey), another inmate that later calls in to the detectives to return the drugs for a cash payout, with Malcolm being wired for sound recording by Fitzgerald. There is a glitch and Jimmie has to declare himself. A gun fight ensues. Malcolm is shot and killed by Parnell, and Scalise dies after crashing his car while trying to escape. As Parnell is about to die at the hands of Jimmie by Parnell's own switchblade, Kate begs him not to kill Parnell, instead saving him so that he can be convicted.

The movie ends with both Kate and Jimmie returning to a life they both deserve. Parnell is put into general prison population (a creative liberty, as convicted ex-cops are always kept in protective custody or are housed in out of state Federal prisons[citation needed]). On entry to the prison inmate main room, Virgil calls attention to Parnel by yelling, "hey, officer," for all the other inmates to see and hear. Parnell looks up to the balcony where Virgil is standing, his face frozen in a mask of fear as he hears Virgil say, "Ain't life a motherfucker?", repeating the line said when he and Jimmie last met before Jimmie went on parole. Jimmie is seen suited up and working again for the airline, thus finally getting his life back.



  1. ^ "An Innocent Man (1989)". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved July 15, 2011.

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