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Stranger Among Us, A
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by Jack Sommersby

"A Female 'Witness'"
1 stars

One of those major miscalculations that makes you question the sanity of studio execs who green-light odious projects like this.

A pet peeve of mine in movies is someone discovering a corpse that's been dead long enough where it would most definitely reek, so the person discovering it would be well aware of what he or she would be stumbling onto. In the appalling A Stranger Among Us not only has the body been dead two whole days, its been leaking blood so as to stain a ceiling tile up where it's been stashed, and yet the dead man's family remains oblivious not only to the smell but the blatantly obvious stain -- it takes the heroine, Emily Eden (played by Melanie Griffith), a New York City policewoman assigned to this missing-person case, to spot it within a mere five minutes of questioning in the Hasidic Jewish family's jewelry store. Being that the burglar alarm was turned off and there's no sign of forced entry, it's surmised that the dead man knew his killer, so Emily goes undercover in this community to ferret out the culprit. Implausibly, she moves into the house of the lead rebbe, whose family consists of adopted son Ariel (Eric Thal) and daughter Leah (Mia Sara), has to assimilate herself into a new world with strict rules (like an unmarried man and woman not allowed in the same room together) including going back to her natural brunette hair color and wearing long dresses rather than skirts (the exposure of bare legs is frowned upon), and pretends to be an employee at the jewelry store. Of course, Emily and the handsome Eric will fall for each other, she'll get the priggish Leah to loosen up some, and her tough-as-nails exterior will give way to a vulnerable interior that'll be strengthened by her exposure to this religion's "values." A gender-switched carbon copy of 1985's Witness, A Stranger Among Us shares with that overpraised Oscar winner oodles of logic loopholes and an undernourished crime plot -- we couldn't care less about the mystery angle, with the whodunit angle negligently rendered where you should have the killer's identity figured out by the midway mark. Sidney Lumet, who wrote and directed the brilliant Q & A two years prior, ploddingly directs without distinction. Kudos, however, to newcomer Thal's interesting performance, and Griffith's believability as a tough-talking detective is a real surprise, though she isn't given the chances to shine as she did as the ambitious secretary in Working Girl and bereaved mother in Paradise. Maybe one day these two will appear in something worthier of their talents than this rancid cinematic corpse that, yes, reeks like there's no tomorrow.

Skip it.

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originally posted: 03/10/14 09:08:04
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  17-Jul-1992 (PG-13)



Directed by
  Sidney Lumet

Written by
  Robert J. Avrech

  Melanie Griffith
  Eric Thal
  John Pankow
  Mia Sara
  Lee Richardson

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