Plot: Sam Paxton (Aidan Quinn) knows first hand that organized crime has a strong presence in his neighborhood, as it impacts a lot of aspects of life in the area. This includes his own business, which faces some tough financial choices because of the criminal elements around. The prices of his ingredients are even influenced by the mob, not to mention pressure to choose certain suppliers, even if the legality of the goods are in question. When a mobster storms into a local bar and shoots a man in plain sight of the entire crowd, no one is willing to even speak to the police, out of fear of reprisal from the killer’s connections. But Paxton decides to confirm the identity of the killer, only to be hit with pressure from the police to give more and more information, even as his family’s safety is put at risk. When he refuses to cooperate further, he finds himself on the wrong end of the law, so facing intense pressures from both sides involved, what will become of Paxton?
Entertainment Value: This made for cable movie has a good cast and an interesting premise, but just never puts it all together and while not bad, winds up as a mediocre overall experience. The narrative of being trapped in a no win situation, especially after trying to do the right thing, is one that holds promise, but Perfect Witness struggles to make it work here. The tone is serious and grounded, but some plot holes creep in, likely to add some drama. I don’t mind however, as the pace can be slow here and the focus is on dialogue driven dramatic scenes, so a little boost here and there to keep you reeled in is no crime. As the finale delivers a nice punch of a twist, the ride is worth taking, I just wish the rest of the movie was more worthwhile. I do feel like the cast makes the basic script better than it might have been, but even this talented ensemble can only do so much in this case. So Perfect Witness doesn’t light up the screen, but if the story interests you, you could a lot worse than this television drama.
I looked into Perfect Witness because of Brian Dennehy, as I love his work and find him to be quite a reliable performer. While his costar Aidan Quinn looms large here in a good effort, Dennehy steals some scenes as the shifty prosecutor who seems almost as criminal as those he pursues. I like how Dennehy doesn’t even try to conceal Falcon’s sliminess here, it oozes from his performance in liberal doses, making it easy to hope for his downfall. At the same time, some might find it to be heavy handed, but the material does little to redeem Falcon as a character, so Dennehy’s straight ahead take works well in this case. I just wish he had more screen time, as he chews up scenes and is one of the movie’s best elements. But Quinn does shine as well, in a sincere, memorable effort that really deserved a better script to work with. I feel like the cast really saves Perfect Witness, it is a shame the other aspects weren’t up to that same level. The cast also includes Delroy Lindo, Laura Harrington, Colm Meaney, Tobin Bell, and Stockard Channing.