Cast: Steven Vey (Michael Kitchen), Eddy Doyle (Sean Gallagher), Nicky Lennon (Caroline Catz), Tanya Penny (Carol Starks), Tommy (Lee Ross), Leo (Andrew Tiernan), Sarah Vey (Eleanor David), Chris Bouch (Peter Blythe)
Director: Colin Gregg
Original air date(s): 06/08/1992 (UK)
DVD Date: 01/04/2011
Rating: Not Rated
Running Time: 201 minutes
— ♦ —
Review: Michael Kitchen (Foyle's War) stars as Steven Fey, a successful barrister trapped in a maelstrom of his own making, in the thriller The Guilty, a two-part made-for-television film that originally aired on ITV in 1992.
Fey is a brash attorney, who will say and do just about anything to get his client a victory in court. These tactics have won him the admiration (and envy) of his colleagues and made him a wealthy man in the process, but more important -- at least to Fey -- is that he has captured the attention of the office of the Lord Chancellor, the sole body that determines who to elevate to be one of the realm's judges. Fey is rumored to be on a short list for consideration, and if chosen, would be the youngest judge in Britain's history.
Following his most recent success in the courtroom -- he won the largest financial settlement ever handed down in an libel case for his client -- he returns to his office late that night where his new secretary, Nicky Lennon, is still at work, trying to make a good impression on the boss. Fey asks her out for a drink, they both have one too many, and when she invites him in to her apartment for coffee, he accepts. But Nicky soon has second thoughts about having an affair with her new boss, a married man, and asks him to leave. Instead, he gets violent and rapes her, leaving her unconscious.
Consumed with guilt, Nicky refuses to call the authorities, and even refuses to tell her best friend and roommate who raped her. It isn't until she reads the news that Fey has, indeed, been named as a judge and will have the power to decide other people's fates that she blackmails him into resigning ... even before he has a chance to hear his first cast.
In a separate storyline, Eddy Doyle, a young man in Birmingham, has just been released from prison after doing a stint for stealing cars. With few job prospects locally, he wants to apply for a job internationally, which requires a passport. Obtaining a birth certificate from his mother, who realizes too late what it says ... or, rather, what it doesn't say: father unknown. Furious with his mother that he never told him who his real father is, she finally tells him: Steven Fey is his father. Eddy sets out for London to meet him, only to be drawn into and trapped by a gameplan involving Fey and Nicky.
Twenty years ago the plot of The Guilty may have been considered daring and innovative, but to a first-time viewer today, it's utterly predictable, especially the sequence of events that occur during the first 90-plus minute episode. I found myself wanting to fast forward at times, but didn't as the performances, especially that of Michael Kitchen, are great to watch. He's aware of his guilt, but wants to convince himself -- and us -- that he's innocent, that somehow being a high court judge is for the greater good here.
The last half of the movie (the second episode) is more original than what preceded it, as it tends to veer off in unexpected directions, particularly as it ties up its various plot threads and draws to a close.
The Guilty is well paced and goes by surprisingly quickly. And there are several themes introduced and explored in addition to that of guilt and innocence: what is means to be a parent; the relationship between a parent and child (no matter their respective ages); the contrast between those with money and power and those without resources, financial and otherwise; arrogance, pragmatism, and more.
I enjoyed The Guilty, not so much as a suspense thriller but as an overall story well told and played out. And it was great to see Michael Kitchen in a strong role 10 years prior to his stellar performance as DCI Christopher Foyle. Some of the mannerisms remain the same, and with a slight cock of his head before he speaks, no one can deliver a single line of dialog better than he.
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