It is also extremely well acted at every level (one especially wants to single out Bob Balaban as the Government's chief aggressor and Wilford Brimley as its belated voice of conscience), and directed by Sidney Pollack with a sort of crisp but unassuming professionalism that is rarer than it ought to be. Perhaps best of all, the script, by sometime Journalist Kurt Luedtke, who was once part of a Pulitzer-winning investigative team on the Detroit Free Press, has a marvelously entertaining intricacy, briskly and believably building, half-inch by half-inch, Michael's outrage over and Megan's entrapment in the plot to get him.
Sydney Pollack's directing is efficient and the film is moderately entertaining, but it leaves no residue. Except for the intensity of Newman's sly, compact performance...and the marvelously inventive acting of Melinda Dillon.
Absence of Malice is lively, provocative and intelligent, three qualities in short supply this Christmas. It simplifies, but it rarely distorts, and it doggedly picks at sores journalists would just as soon banish by Band-aid. [19 Dec 1981]
A wildly overwritten melodrama about the sins of the press. Newman's character is compelling, but Field's reporter is such a lamebrain that we know she would be fired at any major newspaper. [25 Dec 1981]
Impeccably liberal in its orientation to 'issues' - the power and responsibilities of the press, the impact of misinformation - this avoids the excesses of Stanley Kramer-like telegraphy, only to come up looking aesthetically wet.