Roush Review: ‘Presumed Innocent’ Returns to Court

Jake Gyllenhaal and Bill Camp in 'Presumed Innocent' Episode 2
Apple TV+

Presumed Innocent

Matt's Rating: rating: 2.5 stars

Watching the dutiful and occasionally gripping remake of Presumed Innocent, Scott Turow’s 1987 bestseller that became a hit movie for Harrison Ford back in the day, I kept wondering about the statute of fictional limitations. Maybe 30-odd years is enough time to allow for a new take on such a well-known warhorse.

Or maybe not.

Even if well done, it’s been done. And while the 1990 movie clocks in at just over two hours, David E. Kelley‘s indulgent and often very loose adaptation plods over eight episodes. This gives more time to depict the emotional fallout on the family of hotshot Chicago prosecutor Rusty Sabich (doe-eyed Jake Gyllenhaal, toggling between sheepish shame and volatile anger) after he’s accused of the brutal murder of his co-worker mistress (Renate Reinsve, compelling in heated flashbacks).

Kelley has been a master of the TV courtroom drama since his L.A. Law heyday back around the time of Presumed Innocent‘s blockbuster publication. It’s easy to see why this juicy story holds appeal, with Rusty falling deeper into a moral and ethical downward spiral when sordid details about his ill-fated affair keep pouring out like so much tabloid fodder. Ruth Negga (Preacher) is excellent as Barbara, Rusty’s emotionally scarred wife, unsure how or whether to stand by her unfaithful mate, even as his blustery boss Raymond (Bill Camp) crosses the aisle to defend him.

The courtroom circus can be fun to watch, pitting Raymond against his smarmy and insecure former underling Tommy Molto (Peter Sarsgaard), who holds more than a few grudges against Rusty. (In the real world, this would have been seen as an obvious conflict of interest.) There are red herrings galore and at least one ludicrous cliffhanger that propels Rusty to make the worst possible decision as a defendant.

“Trials often come down to storytelling,” advises his second chair Mya (Gabby Beans), and there’s the rub. Today’s TV environment rarely heeds the rule that less can be more, and I can’t help but render a guilty verdict on the charge that Presumed Innocent has committed that most pervasive of crimes: streaming bloat.

To be fair, Apple TV+ and Kelley chose not to provide the climatic eighth and final episode for review, so it’s a mystery how they’ll deal with the original’s infamous twist ending. (Kelley took the same approach by holding back the finale of his 2020 HBO drama The Undoing, which ultimately failed to stick its landing.) However this turns out, it will be too long in coming.

Presumed Innocent, Series Premiere (two episodes), Wednesday, June 12, Apple TV+