Starring Rob Morrow, Randy Quaid and Paul Sorvino
Directed by Roger Young
Distributed by Paramount Showtime cable television movie originally shown on August 13, 2000 Released on DVD/VHS in February 2003. Rated R (violence and language) 96 minutes

Jonathan Neumann was hired in 1976 as a reporter by the Philadelphia Inquirer. In his first week the twenty-something Neumann showed why he had won ten reporting awards in five years with the New Hampshire paper he was hired away from: He out-scooped every reporter in America when he broke the story that the deaths of 38 people at the American Legion convention in Philadelphia were caused by what came to be known as Legionnaires' Disease.

When assigned to cover the court house beat, his first day on the job Neumann saw everyone in a courtroom, including the judge, make light of a defendant with huge welts on his face testify about being beaten by the police. In response to Neumann's questions, the reporter he was replacing dismissed the welts by saying prisoners routinely beat each other so they could blame it on the police in an effort to get off. He called the beatings "Jailhouse Lawyering." After seeing the same thing in case after case, Neumann smelled a story that was being overlooked by the other courthouse reporters. Like the reporter he replaced, they were satisfied to file a couple nondescript stories everyday and keep their courthouse and police sources happy by not making waves.

The reporter Neumann replaced was transferred to cover Mayor Frank Rizzo's office. Jonathan eventually con

vinced him that something insidious was going on in the Philadelphia Police Department, and the two joined forces.

As their investigation delved into ever more dangerous territory, the dirt they uncovered was nothing short of astonishing. They were even tipped off that a
Philadelphia Inquirer reporter who several years before had mysteriously vanished without clearing out his desk or work locker, or picking up his paycheck, had been dumped in a river to stop his investigation of Philadelphia police corruption.

They also found that Mayor Frank Rizzo was still firmly in control of the Philadelphia Police Department he was chief of before becoming mayor -- and he made sure it operated like an Americanized version of the Gestapo. Among Neumann's discoveries was that detectives were required to solve all homicides. The only way to accomplish that was to extract a confession from a convenient patsy or coerce someone to act as a prosecution witness. A confessor's guilt or innocence, or the truthfulness of a witnesses testimony was irrelevant as long as a case file
was closed. Neumann was eventually able to make contacts within the Philadelphia PD that enabled the lid to be blown off the department's framing of innocent people, the routine torture of suspects, and the murder of potentially troublesome witnesses. When the story was published Mayor Rizzo abandoned future political aspirations, there was a departmental shake-up, and
The Philadelphia Inquirer won the Pulitzer Prize for investigative reporting in 1977. Neumann's investigation also led to the exoneration and release of an innocent man sentenced to death after being framed by the Philadelphia PD for a murder he had nothing to do with.

Most well known for his years on TV's Northern Exposure, Rob Morrow is perfectly cast as the earnest and somewhat abrasive Jonathan Neumann whose dedication has paid off with his being involved in five Pulitzer Prizes as either a reporter or editor. Randy Quaid is likewise excellent as the sincere reporter convinced by Neumann to help break the story wide open. Paul Sorvino is also perfect as Mayor Frank Rizzo, who was finally undone by his arrogance at thinking he could pull enough strings and wield enough billy clubs to conceal his Philadelphia fiefdom from prying eyes.

Made as a Showtime cable movie
The Thin Blue Lie is now available on DVD and VHS. It is rated R for violence and language, but I don't know why, because the cable version I saw is no more offensive than programs on nighttime network TV. If you are in the mood for an engrossing, well-paced human interest movie -- you might want to check it out.