ABOVE SUSPICION – Review by Susan Granger

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Set in Pikeville, Kentucky, this crime thriller is based on actual events that caused fear, loathing and revenge in rural Appalachia.

“You know what’s the worst thing about being dead? You have too much time to think,” muses Susan Smith (Emilia Clarke) as her from-the-grave voiceover teases the Southern Gothic saga about to unfold.

In 1988, Susan was living in a trailer park with her two children and abusive, drug-dealing ex-husband, Cash (Johnny Knoxville). Addicted to cocaine, she was about to be arrested as a welfare cheat, drawing checks from multiple states, when she spies handsome, clean-cut F.B.I. agent Mark Putnam, moving from Connecticut into her small town with his wife Kathy (Sophie Lowe) and infant daughter.

Eager for advancement within the Bureau, Putman was determined to catch a local thief who had already hit 11 banks in the area.

Grateful for the extra income and seeing an avenue for escape from the hardscrabble drudgery of her life, desperate, impetuous Susan is determined to seduce him, acting as his undercover ‘informant,’ helping him break several cases.

Not surprisingly, when their relationship turns sexual and he refuses to fulfill her naïve romantic fantasy, there are violent repercussions, since snitches are despised in the Kentucky hills. Eventually, guilt-riddled Putnam is arrested – the first time an F.B.I. agent was convicted of murder.

Adapted by Chris Gerolmo from the book by New York Times journalist Joe Sharkey and directed by Philip Noyce (Patriot Games), it superficially skims the sordid story, balefully punctuated by Dickon Hinchliffe’s score.

During the end credits, there are glimpses of the real people depicted, including Mark Putnam.

FYI: Best known as blonde dragon-riding Danerys Targaryen in HBO’s Game of Thrones, Emilia Clark wears a brunette wig. And Jack Huston (Boardwalk Empire) is the nephew of actress Angelica Huston.

On the Granger Gauge of 1 to 10, Above Suspicion is a gritty, tawdry 5, available on DVD and online streaming.

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Susan Granger

Susan Granger is a product of Hollywood. Her natural father, S. Sylvan Simon, was a director and producer at R.K.O., M.G.M. and Columbia Pictures; her adoptive father, Armand Deutsch, produced movies at M.G.M. As a child, Susan appeared in movies with Abbott & Costello, Red Skelton, Lucille Ball, Margaret O'Brien and Lassie. She attended Mills College in California, studying journalism with Pierre Salinger, and graduated from the University of Pennsylvania, Phi Beta Kappa, with highest honors in journalism. During her adult life, Susan has been on radio and television as an anchorwoman and movie/drama critic. Her newspaper reviews have been syndicated around the world, and she has appeared on American Movie Classics cable television. In addition, her celebrity interviews and articles have been published in REDBOOK, PLAYBOY, FAMILY CIRCLE, COSMOPOLITAN, WORKING WOMAN and THE NEW YORK TIMES, as well as in PARIS MATCH, ELLE, HELLO, CARIBBEAN WORLD, ISLAND LIFE, MACO DESTINATIONS, NEWS LIMITED NEWSPAPERS (Australia), UK DAILY MAIL, UK SUNDAY MIRROR, DS (France), LA REPUBBLICA (Italy), BUNTE (Germany), VIP TRAVELLER (Krisworld) and many other international publications through SSG Syndicate. Susan also lectures on the "Magic and Mythology of Hollywood" and "Don't Take It Personally: Conquering Criticism and other Survival Skills," originally published on tape by Dove Audio.