At first, it looks as if this four-hour, fact-based miniseries will fully justify its length. Knots Landing‘s Donna Mills stars as Joyce Lukezic, a Scottsdale, Ariz., woman accused in 1980 of murdering her husband’s business partner. Director William Norton Jr. does a good job of introducing a large number of characters efficiently. Among them are Robert Wagner as Ron Lukezic, Joyce’s husband, and Steven Bauer (Wiseguy, Scarface) as a hotshot cop so determined to solve the murder case quickly that he coerces an informer to name Joyce as the murderer.
By the second night, however, False Arrest has succumbed to campy women-in-prison scenes. Joyce is convicted and sent to jail, and one prisoner (Mimi Kuzyk) lays down the classic prison-movie law, noting that Joyce’s new roommates are ”thieves, junkies, murderers — this is their world, and you’ve got to live by their rules….Never show fear.” Forced to defend herself against inmates who want to rape her, Mills brandishes a broomstick as her dialogue turns ever more purple: ”I’m in here for two murders — another one isn’t gonna make a damn bit of difference!”
Mills is such an inherently steely actress that her sobbing indignation at being accused, arrested, and convicted rarely rings true, but she comes into her own as a tough con; Bauer is convincingly sleazy as a cop without morals. Wagner’s part is comparatively small, but he’s terrific: Dead-eyed and sullen, he plays Ron Lukezic as a vulgar enigma. For much of the movie, you can’t tell whether he was involved with the crime and feels defensive, or if he’s just peeved that, with Joyce in the slammer, he has to take care of his spoiled-brat stepchildren all by himself. C