Andy (Bill Pullman) and Tracy Safian (Nicole Kidman) are a newlywed couple living in a Victorian house that they are restoring in Western Massachusetts. He is an Associate Dean at a local college, while his wife teaches art to children. When a student is attacked and seriously wounded by a serial rapist, Dr. Jed Hill (Alec Baldwin), a brilliant surgeon who has recently joined the staff of the area hospital, operates and saves her life. Money is tight, so Andy invites him to rent the third floor of their home, in order to finance the new plumbing. With his propensity to bring home sexual partners and to party late into the night, Jed quickly proves himself to be a less-than-ideal tenant.
When Paula Bell (Gwyneth Paltrow), one of Andy's students, is attacked and killed by the serial rapist, Andy is the one to find her body, prompting police Detective Dana Harris (Bebe Neuwirth) to view him as a possible suspect. Harris asks Andy to come to the police station and submit a semen sample to clear his name. While at the police station, Andy learns that Tracy has been hospitalized and is being operated on by Jed. In removing one of Tracy's ovaries, which has ruptured due to a cyst, Jed discovers Tracy is pregnant, but the stress of the procedure causes the fetus to abort.
Another doctor notices that Tracy's other ovary is torsed and appears necrotic. Jed consults with Andy and advises him to agree to the removal of Tracy's second ovary, rather than risk her life. Andy painfully agrees, since this will mean that Tracy can never have children. Jed overrules the protests of other doctors that the ovary might still be healthy and he removes it. After the removal, it is confirmed that the ovary was, in fact, healthy. With this knowledge, Tracy and Andy decide to sue Jed and the hospital.
Jed delivers a deposition in which he launches into a monologue about his own infallibility as a surgeon, concluding with the assertion that he is literally God. Fearful of the negative publicity that would result from a civil trial, the hospital and Jed's insurance company settle with Andy and Tracy for $20 million. However, Tracy leaves Andy, telling him that she can't forgive him for the loss of her ability to have children.
The serial rapist (Tobin Bell) is arrested, clearing Andy's name. In the aftermath of the arrest, Dana informs Andy that his semen sample indicated that he was sterile, and that he couldn't have fathered Tracy's child. Andy confronts Tracy's lawyer, Dennis Riley (Peter Gallagher), accusing him of having impregnated Tracy; Riley protests his innocence, but tells Andy that Tracy's mother — whom she had told Andy had died 12 years ago — can answer all of his questions. Riley refuses to break lawyer client privilege, but tells Andy to take a bottle of Scotch to her.
Andy tracks down Mrs. Kennsinger (Anne Bancroft), who tells Andy that Tracy is a lifelong con artist. As a younger woman, she had an affair with a wealthy man, who paid for her to have an abortion; Tracy kept the money and had it done at a clinic, beginning her career as a con woman. Mrs. Kennsinger identifies Tracy's partner as a corrupt doctor, whom Andy correctly identifies as Jed, who treats Tracy like dirt ever since he scared her in her bathroom in an earlier scene.
Andy ultimately learns that Tracy arranged for Jed to move into the house so that he could begin overdosing her with a fertility drug which causes ovarian cysts when taken in excess amounts, revealing the real reason why Tracy left Andy for Jed. An angry Andy confronts Tracy and tells her he wants half of the settlement money. Suspecting that she might try to murder him, Andy tells her that their next-door neighbor, an adolescent boy, has already agreed to testify that he witnessed Jed injecting Tracy on multiple occasions.
Supported by Andy's suggestion, Jed tells Tracy to give Andy what he wants so they can leave the country, but Tracy instead suggests murdering the boy. Jed refuses to kill a child, so Tracy, fed up with Jed's abusive attitude, shoots him to death, ending their partnership. That night, with the money about to be given to Andy, she slips into the neighbor's house and attempts to suffocate the boy, only to see that the figure she had seen sitting by his bedroom window was in fact a mannequin. Tracy destroys the mannequin and lunges at Andy, claiming that it was a set-up. Detective Harris appears and arrests her, revealing that the boy's supposed agreement to testify against her was part of a sting operation to catch her in the act of attempted murder.
As Tracy is led away in handcuffs, the real boy and his mother return home; as she is put into the police car, Tracy sees that the boy is, in fact, blind. Andy then goes with Dana to celebrate their success.Alec Baldwin as Dr. Jed Hill
Nicole Kidman as Tracy Safian
Bill Pullman as Andy Safian
Bebe Neuwirth as Dana Harris
Anne Bancroft as Mrs. Kennsinger
Peter Gallagher as Dennis Riley
Josef Sommer as Lester Adams
George C. Scott as Dr. Martin Kessler
Tobin Bell as Earl Leemus
Debrah Farentino as Nurse Tanya
Gwyneth Paltrow as Paula Bell
Brenda Strong as Claudia, Riley's Secretary
Ann Cusack as Waitress
Malice was shot on location in Boston, Amherst, Holyoke, and Northampton in Massachusetts. Smith College was the setting used for Andy's college.
Michael Hirsh and Patrick Loubert, two of the co-founders of Canadian animation studio Nelvana, worked as executive producers on the film.
Malice opened on 1,431 screens in the U.S. on October 1, 1993 and grossed $9,232,650 during its opening weekend, ranking #1 at the box office. It eventually earned a total of $46,405,336 in the US.
Malice earned mixed reviews from critics, holding a 59% rating on Rotten Tomatoes based on 22 reviews.
Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times called the film "one of the busiest movies I've ever seen, a film jampacked with characters and incidents and blind alleys and red herrings. Offhand, this is the only movie I can recall in which an entire subplot about a serial killer is thrown in simply for atmosphere." He added, "I can't go into detail without revealing vital secrets. Yet after the movie is over and you try to think through those secrets, you get into really deep molasses . . . Malice was directed by Harold Becker, whose credits include the splendid films The Onion Field and Sea of Love, and he milks this material for a great deal more than it is worth."
Peter Travers of Rolling Stone observed, "Goaded on by writer Aaron Sorkin, who could run a red-herring factory, the actors work to keep you guessing long after you've caught on. No one shows any shame about going over the top, especially Anne Bancroft in an Oscar-begging cameo as Tracy's mother. Perhaps director Harold Becker thought flashy acting could distract us from the gaping plot holes. Becker gets so intent on confusing us, he forgets to give us characters to care about . . . It's got suspense but no staying power."
Timothy M. Gray of Variety said, "The immaculately crafted Malice is a virtual scrapbook of elements borrowed from other suspense pix, but no less enjoyable for being so familiar. [It] should tickle audiences who want to be entertained without being challenged . . . Some of the plotting gets plodding . . . but on the whole, the script does what it set out to do, and if the filmmakers didn't worry about these things, neither should you . . . After listless performances in such pics as Days of Thunder and Far and Away, Aussie Kidman, who here uses a flawless American accent, proves her strengths as an actress, and Baldwin mixes menace, sex and humor in another terrific performance."
The film is recognized by American Film Institute in these lists:2005: AFI's 100 Years...100 Movie Quotes:
Dr. Jed Hill: "You ask me if I have a God complex. Let me tell you something. I am God." – Nominated