Guilt by Association (2002) Mercedes Ruehl, Alberta Watson, Alex Carter, Karen Glave, Elisa Moolecherry, Rachel McAdams Movie Review

Guilt by Association (2002)   3/53/53/53/53/5

Mercedes Ruehl in Guilt by Association (2002)

Flaw in the Law

Mother of two Susan Walker (Mercedes Ruehl - Lost in Yonkers) knew that her boyfriend, Russell (Alex Carter - Her Desperate Choice), smoked and sold a little pot to his friends but turned a blind eye to it as she thought it was just a little pot. That is until she catches him dealing in her basement and for the safety of her kids finishes with him. But that is not the end of it for Susan when one night the DEA burst into her home and arrest her as a co-conspirator in the case against Russell as she knew about his drug dealing but never turned him in. With no knowledge of who Russell got his drugs from it leaves Susan unable to cut a deal with the DEA and so ends up with the mandatory minimum sentence of 20 years.

As a Brit living in the UK "Guilt by Association" is certainly an interesting true story movie as I had never come across the mandatory minimum sentencing laws. The first third of the movie focuses on these laws as Susan finds herself arrested because she knew her boyfriend dealt drugs and never shopped him, a situation which I imagine quite a few people could unwittingly find themselves in. But what is interesting is the way it shows that because Susan knew nothing about who he worked with she had nothing to bargain with to get a reduced sentence. It highlights the flaw in the law, that for those more involved are better placed to bargain but for the truly innocent they had nothing and were victims of the law.

Rachel McAdams in Guilt by Association (2002)

Of course "Guilt by Association" does take a pretty predictable path after it establishes this flaw in the law as we watch Susan having to deal with prison life. It throws in plenty of the familiar prison movie elements from new meat getting a hard time to violence in the dinner line but it also highlights that Susan wasn't alone as their other women inside for being co-conspirators. And on the subject of predictable this plays out as Susan writes and campaigns to get her freedom. So basically after an interesting opening which highlights the flaw in the law it then takes the usual path of an innocent woman in prison.

As with how the movie plays out the acting is sold but predictable with Mercedes Ruehl doing a decent job as Susan. Ruehl takes us through the shock of being arrested and the bigger shock of getting a long sentence whilst also doing the tough cookie act as she survives in prison. But the character of Susan ends up a familiar one despite this being based on a true story.

What this all boils down to is that "Guilt by Association" is interesting because it highlights the flaw in the mandatory minimal sentence law but it also ends up quite a predictable movie as after the unique set up what follows is a pretty typical story arc.