Brendan Fraser in Presumed Guilty (1991)

Finding Fraser

Bobby McLoughlin (Brendan Fraser - The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor) wasn't the greatest of kids, his adopted father Harold Hohne (Martin Sheen - Wall Street) had kicked him out when they found him with a joint. But in 1979 Bobby finds himself being arrested for a murder at Marine Park, Brooklyn thanks to a 15 year old kid who identified him. Initially sceptical of his son's innocence Harold arranges for a lie detector test which proves to him that Bobby is innocent but that means nothing when at the court case he is found guilty of 2nd degree murder and sentenced to 15 years. Determined to clear his son Harold doesn't give up and after sneaking in to the police station discovers that there were two Bobby McLoughlin's and they pulled the wrong card and arrested the wrong guy. Meanwhile 20 year old Bobby is discovering how tough life is inside, forced to toughen up to survive.

As a fan of made for TV movies especially those which are based on true stories "Presumed Guilty" is not the first movie I have watched about someone wrongly sentenced for a crime they didn't commit. As such there is shall we say a very typical side to this movie as we watch how initially Bobby is let down by his lawyer who thinks it is a simple win and is almost blase about the case. And then we watch how Harold never gives up on trying to prove Bobby's innocence, uncovering a cock up by the police and how Bobby's case was not only the first case for the arresting cop but also the D.A.

Brendan Fraser and Martin Sheen in Presumed Guilty (1991)

But whilst the story of proving Bobby innocent is interesting the real interesting side to "Presumed Guilty" is in the detail. The first comes from Martin Sheen as Harold who is initially sceptical about Bobby's innocence because in his eyes he had been in trouble before. The scene following the lie detector test where Harold realises Bobby is innocent and can't even look his son in his eyes out of guilt for thinking him guilty is so powerful, more powerful than any scene later on when Harold tries to get justice and rages at the system.

But then there is also Brendan Fraser's performance as Bobby and it is in the detail where his performance is so powerful. Watching how Bobby changes inside, bulking up to protect himself from attacks whilst also experiencing hard drugs speaks volumes of how prison changed him. It is this detail which makes "Presumed Guilty" stand out from the crowd and become more than just a story of an innocent man getting justice.

What this all boils down to is that on paper "Presumed Guilty" sounds like another one of those TV movies which just about an innocent man getting justice. But the strength of this movie is in its detail, in its little scenes which make the people involved come to life.