Imagine a police movie where no one gets killed. “With Hostile Intent” is that kind of telepic, but by the time the CBS credits roll, the script becomes a casualty not even fine performances by Melissa Gilbert or Mel Harris can save.
Based on a recent sexual harassment case involving two female officers of the Long Beach Police Department, script by Majorie David and Alison Cross jumps around quickly at the beginning, heats up in the middle and cools rapidly during court scenes at the end.
Credit Mel Harris (“thirtysomething”) for collaring her character, Kathy Arnold, bringing reality and passion to a woman finding out the men-only K-9 corps is not ready for sexual liberation. You never doubt Harris is police officer.
Gilbert as Miranda Berkeley gives life to a less sympathetic victim, one who is the target of harassment after ending a relationship with a married sergeant, played unmercifully by Peter Onorati.
Telepic has trouble finding its feet at the start, clumsily establishing relationships and plot. Romantic scenes are as cold as an Otter Pop and real drama is slow out of the gate.
Portrayal of sexual harassment in the male-dominated police world, though, hits its mark, especially in the K-9 unit, where the officers bite worse than they bark. Scene where dogs are allowed to bite Harris’ character playing a decoy is telepic’s most riveting.
The two women do not know each other while on the force, and after they decide to fight it together, Harris and Gilbert never really act with each other. They seem friendly enough, but there isn’t the bonding this experience should forge.
Holland Taylor plays their tough-as-nails woman lawyer, but her skills are lost in court scenes with little sizzle or suspense. A favorable verdict never seems in question.
Script’s shortcomings are softened by the better-than-average camerawork of Eric Van Haren Noman and ever-changing scenes designed by Michael Corenblith.
Fact-based stories are now the norm rather than the exception in TV land, and as is the case here, not all headlines can sustain a two-hour treatment. The limitations come from sticking to reality rather than a writer’s imagination, where possibilities are endless.