Distributed by: Artist View Entertainment
Reviewed by Melissa Minners
There are times when an actor or actress is so convincing in their role that you are immediately captivated by their performance and want to see more. Over the years, I’ve amassed a list of actors and actresses’ whose work I’ve followed over the years. One of those is Angelina Jolie. I’ve seen and enjoyed most of her movies. So, when I was running a search for another movie she was in and Without Evidence came up, I was surprised. Here was an Angelina Jolie movie I hadn’t seen! Well, you know I just had to get my hands on it to check it out.
Without Evidence is a 1995 film based on the true story of the murder of Michael Francke on January 17, 1989. Francke had been the Director of the Oregon Department of Corrections at the time of his death. The investigation into his murder left much to be desired by many, including Phil Stanford, an Oregon newspaper columnist who co-wrote the screenplay for this film.
The movie actually centers around Kevin Francke, Michael’s brother, who has suspicions about the way Michael’s murder case is being handled. Upset by the police department’s lack of leads and follow-up, Michael moves to the area so he can be closer to the investigation, only to learn that the police are deliberately ignoring valid evidence in support of their own theory. Kevin, remembering that Michael was worried about corruption within the Oregon Department of Corrections the last time they met, is determined to uncover evidence of a state-wide cover-up of what really happened to his brother on the night of his murder.
Scott Plank portrays the role of Kevin Francke with the intensity of a man obsessed, yet somehow manages to look sexy at the same time. Andrew Prine is John Nelson, a television reporter who believes Kevin’s insistent cries of cover-up. Anna Gunn is Liz Godlove, former girlfriend of Tim Natividad, the man she believes may have actually murdered Michael Francke. Unfortunately, no one can question this man - his ex-girlfriend had killed him in self-defense a short time after the Francke murder.
Oh, you’ll remember that I wanted to see this movie because Angeline Jolie was in it. Without Evidence marks one of Angelina’s early feature film roles. She portrays Jodie Swearingen, a junkie who may or may not have witnessed Francke’s murder. Her multiple statements to police name Frank Gable as the killer and she was a key witness in Gable’s trial. However, statements to Kevin and John Nelson contradict what she stated to police and seem to point toward Natividad. Unfortunately we don’t get to see much of her - a few scenes in which she shows how masterfully well she can portray a junkie - distracted, freaked out and totally ADD-ish. A great job on a role that is unfortunately too short for someone of Jolie’s talents.
Without Evidence, while intriguing as an unsolved mystery (Gable was convicted, but he still claims innocence and has a large following of people who believe his claims), this film plays out as an 80s made-for-television movie. The film is a tad off visually as though this was created on a very low budget. The sound is also a bit off. The story is intriguing, but there is a bit of a Swiss cheese feeling about the whole thing - as if certain parts were left out while others were focused on to make the film more dramatic and appealing to audiences.
And then there is the annoying lack of an ending - the film just stops at a certain point without warning. This is a drama based on a true story. Why wouldn’t you at least end the film with a few words appearing on the screen like, “Frank Gable was sentenced to life in prison for the murder of Michael Francke on January 17, 1989. To this date, he still maintains his innocence. A one million dollar reward has been offered for information about this case…blah, blah, blah.” Instead, the film simply ends at a scene and the credits role. One could argue that the film creators wanted movie-goers to have a lack of closure mimicking that of the Francke family, but I doubt these folks were all that clever about this ending. I think they just didn’t have the imagination or the wherewithal to find a decent way to close the film.
Without Evidence is one of those films that I actually regret having paid for. This would have been something I would rather have watched on Lifetime or truTV. Definitely not worth the money I paid for the DVD…unless that money is used to aide in re-opening the Michael Francke murder case. You see, although the movie wasn’t exactly up to par, it did serve to convince me of one thing - the man behind bars for this murder may in fact be innocent. This is the only point on which anyone could call the film Without Evidence a success.