Marie Ragghianti exposes corruption and brings down the Tennessee state government. Based on a true story. [ Marie credits: Dir: Roger Donaldson/ Sissy Spacek, Jeff Daniels, Keith Szarabajka/ 113 min/ Drama/ Corrupt Government, Working for Government]
Andrew Jackson once said “One man with courage makes a majority.” As demonstrated here, the same could be said of one woman, in this case Marie Ragghianti, who single-handedly stood her ground against a cabal of corrupt officials, and at considerable risk to herself.
Following her promotion to the Tennessee parole board, Marie soon discovered that it was part of her job to parole all felons then Governor Blanton recommended, regardless of the severity of their crimes or their criminal histories. The explanations the Governor gave for these recommended paroles were suspicious. But Marie had been hired because she was poor and naive, and was therefore thought to be easily controlled. It was thought that she would ignore the Governor’s association with shady characters, the rumors that paroles were being openly bought and sold, and the curious way in which certain felons had the apparent expectation that they were going to be released.
Indeed, everyone else ignored all this, but she didn’t. She flatly refused, on principle, to parole obviously ineligible felons. As a result, she was harassed and intimidated by Blanton’s associates and was ultimately fired by Blanton. However, thanks to an FBI investigation she subsequently prompted, Blanton and others were sent to prison in 1983 for, as it turned out, selling pardons and paroles to convicted felons.
Marie is just a B picture overall; but its story of an ordinary person prevailing against government corruption is gratifying to watch, and Sissy Spacek is credible in the leading role. Marie’s real-life attorney, Fred Thompson (who later became a U.S. senator), plays himself.