Treat Williams stars as a cop who — in the middle of investigating serial killings — gets hit by a train and develops “post-traumatic amnesia.” Then things start to get silly. Style triumphs over substance to some degree with “In the Shadow of Evil”; so even though the killer is the most obvious suspect, there’s suspense waiting for the police to catch up and then the final showdown.
Jack Brenner (Williams) is the precinct’s star detective, though he refuses to play by the rules. After he’s kiboshed by the Santa Fe, Lt. Danny Rhodes (Joe Morton), a by-the-book kind of commander, brings in experimental psychologist Dr. Molly Nostrand (Margaret Colin), whose previous experience has been training a chimpanzee to communicate via sign language.
Together, Brenner and Nostrand sort of manage to separate the killer from a school of crimson herrings. Chief suspects — as far as these two are concerned — include Brenner’s rival, Det. Walt Keller (Timothy Busfield), and county medical examiner Dr. Frank Teague (William H. Macy).
Script, by Raymond Hartung and Robert Nathan, asks viewers to believe that nobody in the police department (or TV audience) has ever seen a movie scripted by Joe Eszterhas, and that the police department’s electronics expert can’t spot a method of audio doctoring that’s evident to anybody who’s ever worked with tape.
Brenner walks around in a daze most of the time, which Williams pulls off effectively; Colin turns in as intelligent a performance as, say, Glenn Close in “Jagged Edge,” Busfield chomps the scenery, and Morton and Macy may be the most believable ones of the bunch.
The medical examiner is the most interestingly drawn character as he plays classical music tapes during autopsies, and attempts to pick up Nostrand by offering to take her to a dinner theater production of “Kiss Me, Kate.”
Overall look of pic, developed by director Daniel Sackheim, lit by William Wages and edited by Laurie Grotstein, is especially sharp; musical cues (Nicholas Pike) are as overblown as Busfield’s performance. At least nobody’s going to fall asleep during this one.