Malice (1993 film)
Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Harold Becker|
|Produced by||Harold Becker|
|Screenplay by||Aaron Sorkin|
|Story by||Aaron Sorkin|
|Music by||Jerry Goldsmith|
|Edited by||David Bretherton|
|Distributed by||Columbia Pictures|
(USA & Canada)
The Rank Organisation
United International Pictures
|Box office||$46 million (domestic)|
Malice is a 1993 neo-noir film directed by Harold Becker, written by Aaron Sorkin and Scott Frank, and starring Alec Baldwin, Nicole Kidman, Bill Pullman, Anne Bancroft and George C. Scott. Adapted from a story by Jonas McCord, the plot follows Andy and Tracy Safian, a newlywed couple whose lives are upturned after they rent part of their Victorian home to Jed, a cavalier surgeon; things are further complicated when he removes Tracy's ovaries during an emergency surgery to save her life. The film features supporting performances from Bebe Neuwirth, Peter Gallagher, and Tobin Bell, with minor appearances from Gwyneth Paltrow and Brenda Strong.
Released in the fall of 1993, Malice grossed a total of $46 million in the United States.
Andy and Tracy Safian are a newlywed 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 and seriously wounded by a serial rapist, Dr. Jed Hill, a brilliant surgeon who has recently joined the staff of the area hospital, operates and saves her life. Money is tight, so Andy invites him to rent the third floor of their home, 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 Paula Bell, one of Andy's students, is attacked and killed by the serial rapist, Andy is the one to find her body, prompting police detective Dana Harris to view him as a possible suspect. Harris asks Andy to come to the police station and submit a semen sample in order to clear his name. While at the police station, Andy learns that Tracy 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. After the removal, it is confirmed that the ovary was, in fact, healthy. Tracy tells Jed she's suing him for malpractice.
Jed delivers a deposition in which he launches into a monologue about his own infallibility as a surgeon, concluding with the assertion that he is literally God. Fearful of the negative publicity that would result from a civil trial, the hospital and Jed's insurance company settle with Andy and Tracy for $20 million. However, Tracy leaves Andy, telling him that she can't forgive him for the loss of her ability to have children.
The serial rapist, a handyman at the college named Earl, is arrested after a struggle with Andy. He had stumbled upon hairs Earl had collected of his victims en kept among his belongings. Andy's name was cleared in the process. In the aftermath of the arrest, Dana informs Andy that his semen sample indicated that he was sterile, and that he couldn't have fathered Tracy's child. Andy confronts Tracy's lawyer, Dennis Riley, accusing him of having impregnated Tracy; Riley protests his innocence, but tells Andy that Tracy's mother — whom she had told Andy had died 12 years ago — can answer all of his questions. Riley refuses to break lawyer-client privilege, but tells Andy to take a bottle of Scotch to her.
Andy tracks down Mrs. Kennsinger, who tells Andy that Tracy is a lifelong con artist. As a younger woman, she had an affair with a wealthy man, who paid for her to have an abortion; Tracy kept the money and had it done at a clinic, beginning her career as a con woman. Andy ultimately learns that Tracy arranged for Jed to move into the house so that he could begin overdosing her with a fertility drug which causes ovarian cysts when taken in excess amounts, revealing the real reason why Tracy left Andy for Jed. An angry Andy confronts Tracy and tells her he wants half of the settlement money. Suspecting that she might try to murder him, Andy implies their next-door neighbor, the ten-year-old boy who's been their seeming voyeur, is named in his will as a potential police witness to her and Jed's nefarious activities.
Supported by Andy's suggestion, Jed tells Tracy to give Andy what he wants so they can leave the country, but Tracy instead suggests murdering the boy. Jed refuses to kill a child, so Tracy shoots him to death, ending their partnership. That night, with the money about to be given to Andy, she slips into the neighbor's house and attempts to suffocate the boy, only to see that the figure she had seen sitting by his bedroom window was in fact a CPR dummy. Tracy destroys the dummy and lunges at Andy, claiming that it was a set-up. Detective Harris appears and arrests her, revealing that the boy's supposed agreement to testify against her was part of a sting operation to catch her in the act of attempted murder.
As Tracy is led away in handcuffs, the real boy and his mother return home; as she is put into the police car, Tracy sees that the boy is, in fact, blind. Andy leaves with Dana to have a drink of Scotch.
- Alec Baldwin as Dr. Jed Hill
- Nicole Kidman as Tracy Safian
- Bill Pullman as Andy Safian
- Bebe Neuwirth as Dana Harris
- Anne Bancroft as Mrs. Kennsinger
- Peter Gallagher as Dennis Riley
- Josef Sommer as Lester Adams
- George C. Scott as Dr. Martin Kessler
- Tobin Bell as Earl Leemus
- Debrah Farentino as Nurse Tanya
- Gwyneth Paltrow as Paula Bell
- Brenda Strong as Claudia, Riley's Secretary
- Ann Cusack as Waitress
Malice had its world premiere in Los Angeles on September 29, 1993, and 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 U.S.
Malice earned mixed reviews from critics, holding a 59% approval rating on the internet review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes based on 29 reviews. Audiences polled by CinemaScore gave the film an average grade of "B+" on an A+ to F scale.
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."
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."
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."
Cultural impact and references
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.
In the episode "Terms of Endearment" of the animated television series Drawn Together, the character Wooldoor Sockbat recites the closing lines of Baldwin's speech verbatim.
- Hardy 1997, p. 131.
- Adilman, Sid (October 6, 1993). "Toronto producers share movie gravy". Toronto Star. Torstar Corporation. p. D.2. Retrieved August 15, 2010.
- "World Premiere of "Malice" – September 29, 1993". Getty Images. Retrieved February 28, 2018.
- "Box office information for Malice". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved August 15, 2010.
- "Malice (1993)". Rotten Tomatoes. Fandango Media. Retrieved April 17, 2018.
- "Malice (1993)". CinemaScore.
- Ebert, Roger (October 1, 1993). "Malice". Chicago Sun-Times. Retrieved February 28, 2018.
- Travers, Peter (October 1, 1993). "Malice". Rolling Stone. Retrieved February 28, 2018.
- Gray, Tim (September 24, 1993). "Review: Malice". Variety. Retrieved February 28, 2018.
- Jack Burditt, Tina Fey, writers; Don Scardino, director (February 12, 2009). "St. Valentine's Day". 30 Rock. Season 3. Episode 11. NBC.
- Hardy, Phil (1997). The BFI Companion to Crime. University of California Press. ISBN 978-0-520-21538-2.
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