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Film / An Innocent Man

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"Two Cops on the Take Just Made the Biggest Mistake of Their Lives. They Framed..."

An Innocent Man is a 1989 crime thriller film directed by Peter Yates, and starring Tom Selleck.

Enter James Rainwood, an airline maintenance supervisor with a perfect wife. Things take a dark turn when James decides to take a shower one night. While scrubbing himself clean, two crooked police officers get the wrong address and bash down his door. When James comes out of the bathroom wielding his hair dryer, they think it is a gun and shoot him. Realizing their mistake, they cover themselves and frame him as a drug dealer. James refuses to take a plea and he is sentenced to six years in the slammer. In the brutal prison environment, he is given a bleak collection of options in order to survive prison. After three years, James is released on parole, and he tries to pick up his life again, but the cops from before return to threaten James and his wife. Realizing that his prison lessons must be carried over into civilian life, James prepares for a final reckoning between the cops and himself.



  • Clear My Name: James struggles to do this after he gets released from prison.
  • Dirty Cop: Two are responsible for James' incarceration. He used their dirty dealings against them in the end. They're working for a major drug kingpin by arresting competing dealers: James gets their informant to have them arrest the kingpin's men instead.
  • Frame-Up: Two dirty cops break into James' house when they get the address numbers confused with a drug dealer's, then set him up to cover their mistake.
  • Had to Come to Prison to Be a Crook: James kills an inmate preying on him to get rid of the threat and thus "prove" himself in prison so he'll be left alone.
  • Ironic Echo: Virgil rhetorically asks "How often does a con get justice?" when James explains his plight, then repeats it triumphantly to the dirty cops who put both of them in prison when they arrive there at the end of the film.
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  • Laser-Guided Karma: The two dirty cops who framed James are sent to the same prison he was in, on the same block (in Real Life most likely they would be put in protective custody).
  • Meaningful Name: James's mentor Virgil has the same name as Dante's guide through Hell.
  • Pragmatic Hero: Upon being paroled, James initially chooses to try to rebuild his life rather than seek revenge on the dirty cops. It isn't until they start blackmailing him — thus threatening to ruin his life once again — that he sees no choice but revenge.
  • Prison Rape: Jingles' gang threatens James with this by forcing him to watch as a younger inmate is prepared for this exact fate by members of the gang. It's this incident that spurs James (who until then had not been willing to dirty his hands with them) to take action.
  • Scary Black Man: Jingles, the leader of the gang that preys on James during his time in prison.


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