A murder mystery with a fine cast and wild and woolly story, Defenseless almost continuously wobbles across the line between the deliberately ambiguous and the irritatingly murky. Barbara Hershey portrays T.K. Katwuller, a Los Angeles attorney who, for psychological reasons that remain unexplored, has managed to make a rather spectacular mess of her life.
T.K. is drawn into a web of lies when she discovers that her lover and client, Steven Seldes (the reliably snaky J.T. Walsh), is married to her long-lost college room-mate Ellie (Mary Beth Hurt). Steven is later found murdered, and the script asks the audience to swallow the idea that T.K., although she is a material witness to the crime, would become defense attorney for Steven’s wife, who has been accused in the case.
James Hicks’ screenplay, from a story he wrote with Jeff Burkhart, at least gives the actors some strong, if sometimes goofy, emotions to play with, and they generally make the most of them. As a detective on the case, Sam Shepard quietly but intently gets across multiple motives.
New Zealand-born, British-trained director Martin Campbell pushes things a bit too hard at times but must be given credit for the consistent acting.