Based on a true story, “Above Suspicion,” starring “Game of Thrones’” Emilia Clarke, now on VOD, is set in small Kentucky where there are only two ways to make money since the mine closed, “one is the drug business and the other is the funeral business.”
Clarke is Susan Smith, living hand-to-mouth in her Kentucky home town. She wants a better life but drug addiction and her abusive ex-husband’s (Johnny Knoxville) welfare scam has her tied down.
When the married, ambitious FBI agent Mark Putnam (Jack Huston) comes to town there appears to be opportunity for both. He sees her as a conduit of information, a snitch, she thinks he might be her way out. When their work relationship turns romantic, the dynamic changes but when he realizes the error of his ways, Susan becomes obsessed and vengeful.
There’s more but I won’t spoil it for you. The movie kind of does though in its opening minutes. (MILD SPOILER COURTESY OF THE MOVIE) “You know what’s the worst part about being dead?” Susan asks in the opening narration. “You get too much time to think.” It’s a film noir device that works well in “Sunset Boulevard,” but in this case sucks some of the life, literally, out of the storytelling.
A mish mash of drug busts, drawls, deception and clearly telegraphed Southern Gothic plot points, “Above Suspicion” settles on a true crime format instead of digging a little deeper to expose the often-troubled relationship between impoverished people and the folks who are meant to protect them. Instead, it feels like a greatest hits collection of opioid movie tropes tied together with outsized Kentucky accents.
Clarke and Knoxville dirty up real nice but the film’s investment in hard knock poverty porn over substance plays more like an episode of “Dateline” than a cinematic experience.
A quick title IMDB search reveals the name “Above Suspicion” has been used at least twelve times, dating back to 1943. This most recent addition to the ever-growing list of “Above Suspicion” titled movies is about as generic as the common name would imply.