For lack of evidence: Jake Gyllenhaal shines in new courtroom thriller on Apple TV+

The courtroom thriller “Due to lack of evidence” from 1990, which is based on a novel of the same name, has become a real classic. Now on Apple TV+ a remake of the film, but there are a few changes compared to the first film version. Firstly, the remake is no longer a film, but a series. In addition, Harrison Ford no longer plays the main role, but his colleague Jake Gyllenhaal, who film fans know from his roles in “Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time”“Spider-Man: Far From Home” or “Southpaw”.

We were able to preview the first seven of the eight episodes of the new miniseries. In our short series review, we'll tell you whether you should venture into the courtroom. Before we get started, a little information in advance: We watched the episodes in the original English version. We can't give you an opinion on the German dubbing.


A prosecutor in the crosshairs

The makers of the new version of “For Lack of Evidence” have changed very little about the starting point of the well-known story. The story centers on Rusty Sabich, who works as an assistant district attorney in Chicago. A gruesome murder soon shocks not only the residents of the city, but also causes a stir in the ranks of law enforcement: a member of the district attorney's office is said to have committed the crime!

Rusty takes on the case, but fails to mention that he had an affair with the murder victim some time ago. A little later, however, our protagonist himself finds himself in the investigators' crosshairs, as all the evidence gradually points to Rusty being the murderer.

Of course, we won't tell you how the case ends in our “For Lack of Evidence” series review. What we can tell you is that the new Apple TV+ series feels like an excellent television series in a positive sense. Each episode ends on a cliffhanger, making you want to watch the next episode. A trick that hasn't been used as effectively in a long time as it is in this gripping courtroom thriller.

This is also thanks to the fact that we as viewers can happily join in the guessing. Is Rusty really the murderer? If not, who else could have committed the crime? It is one of the strengths of really good crime and thriller films, in which these very questions and their answers make up a not insignificant part of the viewing pleasure. Although “pleasure” might not quite be the right word here, after all, the subject matter is serious.


The death penalty is threatened

Our main character Rusty faces the death penalty if he is found guilty of murdering his former lover. “Should” is the key word here, because the defense quickly realizes that they have to sow doubts in the minds of the jury. The jury plays an important role in the American legal system, and if the jury is sufficiently unsettled, the defendant could escape the death penalty.

It is an element that made the trial in “Presumed Inadequate” so exciting for us. But what is important here is that the jury is not only looking at the murder, but also at Rusty's morals, or rather his immoral behavior towards his wife. His infidelity towards his wife eventually catches up with him and, together with the serious accusations, threatens to become a tidal wave that could inadvertently sweep him away.

Apart from that, a series adaptation obviously offers certain advantages over a film adaptation. Since those responsible for a series have significantly more time to tell the story, in the case of the Apple TV+ show we get scenes that had to be omitted from the 1990 film. Rusty's wife, for example, is now allowed to play a larger role and the same applies to our protagonist's deceased lover.

These are welcome additions or extensions that keep the viewing experience fresh for all those viewers who already know the film with Harrison Ford. There is one small downside: the pacing, i.e. the narrative speed of the series, is not always optimal in our opinion. Furthermore, some roles are still underused. Ironically, this applies to Rusty's wife Barbara, although she now gets more screen time.

These are small weaknesses that even the overall good cast cannot completely compensate for. The ensemble that those responsible for the Apple TV+ series have assembled in front of the camera is made up of top-class, wonderful actors and actresses. Lead actor Jake Gyllenhaal in particular was able to convince us across the board with his multi-layered portrayal of Rusty Sabich.

A strong, albeit occasionally underwhelmed, star line-up

Gyllenhaal has already proven his talent several times with outstanding performances and he is also convincing in “Presumed Innocent”. His character Rusty is extremely complex and at times he seems so guilty that it is difficult to believe in his innocence. Rusty experiences numerous intense emotions during the trial and Gyllenhaal manages to convey these with his captivating style.

But his co-stars are also convincing. We would particularly like to highlight Ruth Negga (“Preacher”) as Rusty's wife Barabara, who acts grippingly in her scenes, even if we would have liked the Apple TV+ series to have made more of it. The same goes for her colleague Lily Rabe, who gets to show off her skills as Dr. Rush, but is not really challenged by the script.

Since we're on the subject of the script: A few of the twists during the court proceedings could have been written a little more excitingly. Gyllenhaal & Co. definitely make the show worth watching and make up for some of the length, but we would have liked a little more creativity and courage in the camera work and script to keep us even more captivated.

Before we come to our conclusion, we would also like to briefly talk about David E. Kelley, who created the “Presumed Inevitability” series. Over the course of his career, Kelley has made a name for himself with crime and thriller novels such as “Big Little Lies,” “Big Sky” and “Love & Death.” Unfortunately, the standard of some of his previous works is not quite reached. In a direct comparison, we felt that the pizzazz and that certain something that turns a good to very good series into a great one.

“For Lack of Evidence” premiered exclusively on Apple TV+ on June 12, 2024.