Andy (Bill Pullman) has just moved into a new house in this Massachusetts college town where he is an assistant dean. He lives with his wife Tracy (Nicole Kidman) who helps out in the kindergarten a few days a week, but what they would really like is a child of their own which has turned out to be easier said than done since she has troubles conceiving and is taking medication to that purpose, though it is giving her terrible pains in her abdomen which come and go. But Andy worries about her for other reasons, too, since there is apparently a serial killer and rapist on the loose who just today has claimed another victim, though she has been spared death thanks to the quick thinking of the newest hotshot surgeon at the college hospital…
He being Doctor Jed Hill, played by Alec Baldwin who took his role so seriously, or at least managed to convey he was, that a lot of people back in 1993 were convinced they had seen a good movie. But Malice was not a good movie, it was the equivalent of a paperback bought to kill time at the airport: compelling enough to read all the way through, yet on reflection not exactly nourishing, not to mention lacking all logic unless the drive to get from point A to point B and jump through a few hoops along the way was logical. It was to an extent in that this was the sort of thriller that really needed the twists to justify its existence, but take away those and you might just have had a movie that made any kind of sense.
As opposed to a movie that anyone thinking about the motives and mechanics of going through with the evil plan here would quickly twig that there was no possible way that it could have worked out in the real world, and it didn’t work out in movie world either. Seeing the name of future star scriptwriter Aaron Sorkin may lead you to have high hopes for the entertainment, not least with William Goldman credited as script doctor, yet aside from Baldwin’s great “I am God!” speech which was in all the trailers and coaxed audiences in to watch it in the hopes the rest would be as strong, Sorkin’s accustomed smarts were notably lacking. Fair enough, he wasn’t alone in the script credits, but the impression was more he had taken the job on as a private joke.
Still, you could gripe all you wanted, not least about this being yet another nineties thriller propelled to its conclusion by a boo hiss evil woman whose compunctions were airily explained away by some vague “Chicks be cray-zee am I right?” plot machinations, but there was some amusement in watching Malice tie itself in knots. Don’t get too caught up in the serial killer storyline, however, as that had only a glancing connection to the rest of it – basically to get Andy’s sperm sample – though possibly the more callous members of the audience would get a kick out of a young Gwyneth Paltrow being one of the murderer’s victims. Concentrate on the relationship between Jed, Tracy and Andy and you would be on firmer ground, or as firm as something so ludicrous could make a claim to succeeding with.
Jed is so blatantly dodgy that you immediately believe he is a red herring if you had experience of these mystery movies before, though Baldwin was lots of fun as the potential villain of the piece, chewing up the scenery when given the opportunity, which rest assured he was. The character was so exaggeratedly arrogant that you genuinely believe him when he claims to be the Almighty, and may even be willing him on to fresh heights (or depths) of hubris and aggressive self-belief, so much so that it was almost a letdown when he was revealed to have a rival, maybe two, in the wickedness stakes – or are they an ally? Throw in glorified cameos for George C. Scott and Anne Bancroft so the movie could lay claim to having Oscar winners in its cast, and you had another winding thriller from director Harold Becker who with this and Sea of Love appeared to be mining a rich seam of would-be classy trash. If you expected any of the schemes here to make any kind of sense in the cold light of day, you would be disappointed; on the other hand, if you loved to tackle utter stupidity that thinks it’s clever, you may well enjoy yourself. Music by Jerry Goldsmith.