It's Christmas and public defender Kathleen Riley (Cher - Mask) is looking forwards to her first holiday in a year. That is until the judge assigns her to the case of Carl Wayne Anderson (Liam Neeson - Unknown) a homeless mute who has been arrested in connection with the murder of a secretary whose boss, a judge, had recently committed suicide in his office. Slowly Kathleen gains Carl's trust as she finds a way to communicate with him allowing him to slowly tell his side of things which convinces her that he is innocent. At the same time Kathleen finds herself being assisted by Eddie Sanger (Dennis Quaid - Innerspace) a political lobbyist who just happens to be on the jury and takes it upon himself to start investigating.
"Suspect" opens up with an intriguing scene as we watch a judge enter his office, a Christmas tree is lit up in the corner and he digs around in his desk to find an envelope to hand to his secretary before she leaves for Christmas break. Everyone is in a good mood and after his secretary leaves the judge admires his shotgun, signs some papers and seems happy, except he places his mouth over the barrel of the gun and pulls the trigger. Why did he do that and why in the following scene are we made aware that the secretary is dead, her body found by the river. It is a decent set up with just the right amount of intrigue to spike the audience's curiosity.
But then "Suspect" starts to play magician as things happen out of nowhere. In the scene which introduces us to Kathleen we see two young men throw a brick as her car window then reach in and rip a necklace from around her neck. It seems an over the top way to introduce us to a character and it truth feels more like an attempt to distract us, to make are minds deviate from the main storyline. And there are more of these distractions, from a detective getting attacked to the whole transformation of Carl who when we meet has a wild haired caveman thing going on but slowly smartens up.
There is also the sub plot surrounding Kathleen and Eddie as they start to have feelings for each other which certainly sounds like jury tampering to me. But this is interesting because Eddie is a smooth talking lobbyist who doesn't seem adverse to sleeping with someone to further his career.
The thing is that all of these things end up there to distract, so we don't pick up on the exceptionally subtle clues which litter the movie. And that means that come the end of the movie when things are coming down to the wire and Kathleen sets about proving that Carl is innocent with a passionate speech it feels like it has been plucked out of the air.
Despite this "Suspect" is entertaining because of the cast with Cher and Dennis Quaid working well together. Yet in the tricky role of playing a mute it is Liam Neeson who steals the movie because he takes us on a journey of going from an angry caveman to a smart looking man who still simmers with anger beneath the surface.
What this all boils down to is that "Suspect" is a nicely put together thriller which keeps you interested thanks to the intrigue and the performances from the actors. But it does feel like it thinks it is a magician as right at the end it reveals all like a magician pulling a rabbit out of a hat.