Brian Dennehy and JoBeth Williams offer fine performances in this based-on-a-true-story telepic about a troubled attorney who has to defend his sister after she is accused of murdering her husband. “Final” would have had more appeal at a shorter running time, but the work manages to hold interest.
Dennehy plays Perry Sundquist, an alcoholic attorney on the verge of disbarment and financial ruin, with Williams as his estranged sister, Christine Biondi.
She shows up after a year to tell Perry tales of drugs and physical abuse involving her seemingly perfect husband. When Perry pays a visit, Christine’s husband Ed (played well by Tom Mason) turns the tables by accusing his wife of drug abuse.
After Christine is arrested for Ed’s murder, she has trouble finding an attorney because of her husband’s position in the local community and because the evidence is stacked against her.
Even her own brother doesn’t believe her story of self-defense, but she begs him to defend her. First, though, he must sort out his drinking problem. He manages all this and more with the help of Det. Ayers, played superbly by Eddie Jones.
There are some holes in the story — no autopsy is done on Ed Biondi for drugs and the investigation is hysterical at times in its inadequacy — but director Eric Till manages to make it work.
In Philip Rosenberg’s script and Dennehy’s acting, Perry is far from the stereotype alcoholic; he’s not constantly drinking, but his incompetence becomes a symptom of his drinking (he doesn’t even object to a witness’ hearsay testimony until the judge asks him to).
The character becomes frustrating and even annoying, so it’s a relief for viewers when Perry eventually decides to stop drinking and put his mind on the case at hand.
In addition to the alcoholic and courtroom plotlines, the telepic deals with police coverups and political threats, which makes for some interesting plot twists.
The story may have worked better if more time had been spent inside the courtroom, which always makes for compelling viewing. While story is slow to begin, it picks up speed and races to a finish well worth sticking around for.
Thesping is strong, with Dennehy, Williams and Jones really shining. Neil Roach’s camerawork is faultless.