The Pelican Brief

The assassination of two Supreme Court justices has bewildered the nation, but not coltish, flame-haired law student Darby Shaw (Roberts), whose unofficial conspiracy theory is shockingly vindicated by anonymous hitmen. Exit Darby's sozzled mentor Callahan (Shepard), enter crusading reporter Grantham (Washington). Writer/director Pakula's adaptation of John Grisham's potboiler is a classy but transparent reintroduction to Roberts' sympathetic spunky/vulnerable screen presence (and also, regrettably, to her limited range). Washington, on the other hand, breathes composure and self-assurance, despite finding himself fighting with his impatient news editor, clarifying the plot with a sketchy flow-diagram, and other clichés from the thriller-hack's manual. An old hand at this sort of thing, Pakula goes through the motions, but not much more.

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