Presumed Innocent – The Remake of the Harrison Ford Film is Guilty or Innocent?

SERIES REVIEW – Unfortunately, Jake Gyllenhaal fails to capture Harrison Ford’s charisma in the Apple TV+ series, where Chicago attorney Rusty Sabich faces murder charges. While Gyllenhaal’s efforts are commendable, he cannot replicate the dramatic intensity of the original Alan J. Pakula film. The new adaptation is visually stunning, though occasionally too dark, reminiscent of David Fincher’s films like “Zodiac” and “Se7en.”


Scott Turow’s 1987 legal thriller “Presumed Innocent” generated such excitement that Hollywood initiated a bidding war for the rights a year before the book was published. Ultimately, Alan J. Pakula, known for “Klute,” “All the President’s Men,” and “Sophie’s Choice,” directed the film starring Harrison Ford as prosecutor Rusty Sabich, accused of murdering his colleague and lover. Set in the fictional Kindle County (likely based on Cook County), the story was primarily filmed in Detroit and Canada and became a critical and commercial success. (I would argue it’s one of Ford’s top three performances, alongside “Witness” and “Blade Runner.”)



Another Entry in the Reboot Wave


It’s practically a law in Hollywood that every film and TV series from the ’80s and ’90s will get a reboot, and so arrives the Apple TV+ limited series “Presumed Innocent,” with Jake Gyllenhaal taking on the role of Rusty Sabich, shortly after his appearance in the “Road House” remake, originally starring Patrick Swayze.

Created by the prolific David E. Kelley and stretched over eight episodes (seven of which were available for critics), this updated “Presumed Innocent” is a well-crafted but overly long and unnecessary reimagining of a nearly perfect film, right up to the famous twist ending. Although the ensemble cast delivers flashes of brilliant acting and is filled with interesting visuals, the series is too dour, overly talkative, and meandering, taking frequent and often frustratingly obscure detours. (If you want to see Gyllenhaal shine in far superior psychological thrillers, check out “Zodiac,” “Source Code,” or Denis Villeneuve films like “Enemy” and “Prisoners.”)

The 2.0 version of “Presumed Innocent” is set in Chicago but was actually filmed in Los Angeles, with obligatory transition scenes of the skyline and Michigan Avenue. The premiere episode finds Gyllenhaal’s Rozat “Rusty” Sabich, the chief deputy prosecutor in the state’s attorney’s office, spending time with his family at home when his boss, state’s attorney Raymond Horgan (Bill Camp), calls with shocking news: their ambitious colleague, prosecutor Carolyn Polhemus (Renate Reinsve), has been brutally murdered in her home.



Political Intrigue and the Shadow of Suspicion


Horgan’s political opponent, the smooth and opportunistic Nico Della Guardia (O-T Fagbenle) and his cunning deputy, Tommy Molto (Peter Sarsgaard), seize the opportunity for publicity. Della Guardia, in a press conference, declares: “We are all quite rightly stunned and rattled by such a grotesque and heartless act of violence… It is difficult for the citizenry to feel safe when we can’t even protect our own prosecutors. We must do better.”

Things quickly escalate when Della Guardia wins the election and hands Rusty’s caseload to Tommy, who immediately identifies Rusty as the prime suspect in Carolyn Polhemus’s murder. (It’s no major spoiler to reveal that Rusty had an intense affair with Carolyn and reacted poorly when she ended it, to the point where his calls, texts, and visits bordered on stalking. We will refrain from revealing the numerous other possible suspects and red herrings that surface from episode to episode.) Soon, Rusty is on trial, drawing massive media attention. Let the courtroom theatrics begin.



Plot Shortcomings? Guilty! Soap Opera Elements? Guilty!


This version of “Presumed Innocent” follows the basic premise of the original but omits two key characters from the novel and the adaptation, which significantly weakens the story. Additionally, we get too many soap opera-like, melodramatic scenes, whether it’s Rusty and Barbara hashing out their problems (it’s a miracle she’s still with him), Rusty and/or Barbara’s therapy sessions (played by Lily Rabe), or Barbara considering an affair at the worst possible time. One major character’s serious health scare and subsequent recovery feels like arbitrary padding, leaving the audience to wonder: What was the point of that?

Gyllenhaal portrays Sabich well, though he lacks Ford’s depth and gravitas. Ruth Negga excels in a sometimes implausible role, and O-T Fagbenle delivers one of the year’s most intriguing performances as Della Guardia, with a unique cadence that makes every line memorable. Overall, however, the new “Presumed Innocent” is somehow longer and yet much shallower than the original.

-Gergely Herpai “BadSector”-


Presumed Innocent

Direction - 6.6
Actors - 7.2
Story - 7.4
Visuals/Music/Sounds - 6.5
Ambience - 6.8



The new "Presumed Innocent" adaptation attempts modern elements and impressive visuals but fails to capture the depth and tension of the original film. Gyllenhaal is good but not outstanding, while the supporting cast is strong. Overall, it's a watchable but not exceptional series.

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BadSector is a seasoned journalist for more than twenty years. He communicates in English, Hungarian and French. He worked for several gaming magazines - including the Hungarian GameStar, where he worked 8 years as editor. (For our office address, email and phone number check out our impressum)

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