“Presumed Innocent” review: Jake Gyllenhaal leads a satisfying, old-school thriller

The new Apple TV+ drama from David E. Kelley is based on Scott Turow's bestselling 1987 novel.

A little over a month ago, perennially prolific producer David E. Kelley gave us A Man in Full, a starry adaptation of Thom Wolfe’s best-selling, high-profile novel about an Atlanta power broker. It was terrible. (Please, don’t just take my word for it.) On Wednesday, Kelley delivers Presumed Innocent, a starry adaptation of Scott Turow’s best-selling, high-profile legal thriller that was made into a 1990 movie with Harrison Ford. It’s the most creatively successful thing Kelley has produced in years. Starring Jake Gyllenhaal as a prosecutor accused of his mistress’ murder, Presumed Innocent is a reminder that Kelley is still a master at the fading art of traditional TV storytelling.

For those who read Turow’s 1987 novel or saw the subsequent film, the premise will be familiar: Rusty Sabich (Gyllenhaal) is a chief deputy prosecutor in Chicago, working under State’s Attorney Raymond Horgan (Bill Camp), who’s in a tough reelection campaign against rival prosecutor Nico Della Guardia (O-T Fagbenle). When county prosecutor Carolyn Polhemus (Renate Reinsve) is violently murdered, Rusty takes the case without disclosing that he and Carolyn had a torrid affair — though he’s now reconciled with his wife, Barbara (Ruth Negga). After Della Guardia wins the election, it doesn’t take long for his deputy, Tommy Molto (Peter Sarsgaard), who openly hates Rusty, to uncover Carolyn’s past with his enemy — especially because all evidence points to Rusty being the killer.

<p>Apple TV+</p> Jake Gyllenhaal (center) and Bill Camp in 'Presumed Innocent'

Apple TV+

Jake Gyllenhaal (center) and Bill Camp in 'Presumed Innocent'

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The entertainment value of Turow’s original mystery is a proven quantity — the novel spent 44 weeks on the bestseller list, and the subsequent movie was the 4th highest-grossing R-rated film of 1990 — so Kelley knows better than to deviate wildly from the basics. Instead, he enhances Turow’s crime-thriller character study with time-tested TV devices (every episode gets a cliffhanger, and dammit, I was hanging), new players (including Rusty’s friend on the force, Detective Alana “Rigo” Rodriguez). and an intensified focus on the rewards and pitfalls of relationships — romantic, professional, and familial.

Hollywood doesn’t make too many movies like Presumed Innocent anymore — reality-based thrillers aimed at adults — and while TV hasn’t abandoned them yet, the industry seems to be losing interest. I didn’t realize how much I missed the genre until a scene toward the end of episode 2, where Raymond and his wife, Lorraine (the invaluable Elizabeth Marvel), debate whether he should retire or take Rusty’s case while flossing in front of his-and-hers vanities. There’s a simple poetry in grown-ups talking to each other about emotionally fraught things, and when Kelley’s on his game, few TV writers working today do it better.

<p>Apple TV+</p> Bill Camp and Elizabeth Marvel in 'Presumed Innocent'

Apple TV+

Bill Camp and Elizabeth Marvel in 'Presumed Innocent'

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Kudos are also due to Emmy-winning casting director Jeanie Bacharach (The Bear) for assembling Innocent’s impeccable cast, from the A-list leads down to the smallest role. As Raymond, Camp continues to prove he’s the acting world’s foremost expert on rumpled gravitas. Fagbenle, who’s quickly becoming an Apple TV+ all-star (WeCrashed, Loot), brings a humanizing dash of integrity to the speechifying, imperious Della Guardia. Sarsgaard is brilliantly insufferable as the weaselly, condescending Tommy Molto, whose urgent drive to pin Carolyn’s murder on Rusty is almost certainly not fueled by a desire for justice. The stand-out supporting performances are numerous, including Noma Dumezweni (The Undoing) as the keen, prudent judge overseeing Rusty’s trial; Mark Harelik (Preacher) as an inmate who has information Rusty needs; Lily Rabe as Rusty and Barbara’s increasingly aghast couples therapist; and James Hiroyuki Liao (Barry) as a hilariously belligerent medical examiner.

<p>Apple TV+</p> Jake Gyllenhaal, Ruth Negga, Chase Infiniti and Kingston Rumi Southwick in 'Presumed Innocent.'

Apple TV+

Jake Gyllenhaal, Ruth Negga, Chase Infiniti and Kingston Rumi Southwick in 'Presumed Innocent.'

Certainly, no one would dare cast Tony and Oscar nominee Ruth Negga as something so quotidian as “aggrieved wife”; her Barbara is blunt and unyielding in her rage against Rusty, both for his betrayal and for putting their children (Chase Infiniti and Kingston Rumi Southwick) through the torment of a trial. Still, a subplot chronicling Barbara’s flirtation with a revenge-affair candidate (Sarunas J. Jackson) fails to get any real traction.

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Jake Gyllenhaal — with his dark beauty and soulful, doe-eyed gaze — makes for an excellent hero. Rusty Sabich, however, isn’t a hero — he’s a man living a double life, a devoted husband and father who is admittedly “obsessed” with his dead mistress, so much so he was “basically stalking her.” Presumed Innocent tells us Rusty is shamelessly selfish, arrogant, unstable, and understandably desperate — and while Gyllenhaal does the latter convincingly, the rest doesn’t really come through.

One of the pitfalls of adapting a well-known (and previously adapted) property is that many viewers — and anyone with access to Google — already knows whodunnit. That said, Apple TV+ did not make the finale available to critics in advance. As he proved with A Man in Full, Kelley isn’t afraid to do major reconstructive surgery on a novel’s ending, so it’s possible that Turow's past is not his prologue. No matter how it ends, Presumed Innocent makes nostalgia feel fresh. Grade: B+

Presumed Innocent premieres with the first two episodes on Wednesday, June 12, on Apple TV+.

Read the original article on Entertainment Weekly.