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Overall Rating

Awesome: 0%
Worth A Look: 20%
Average: 0%
Pretty Bad: 0%
Total Crap80%

1 review, 4 user ratings

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Beyond a Reasonable Doubt
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by brianorndorf

"The mystery is not worth the effort"
1 stars

In 1956, “Beyond a Reasonable Doubt” was a Fritz Lang picture starring Dana Andrews. In 2009, the film’s been remade with Jesse Metcalfe in the lead role, with Peter Hyams in the director’s chair. This is not progress. Unsurprisingly, the remake is a clumsy, banal offering of thriller cinema; while the original is perhaps not a faultless classic, it certainly offers more excitement and competence than the star of “John Tucker Must Die” and the director of “A Sound of Thunder” can offer.

C.J. Nicholas (Jesse Metcalfe) is an ambitious television reporter, stuck in Shreveport dragging through random assignments that fail to challenge his gifts. Smelling a chance to nail arrogant District Attorney Mark Hunter (Michael Douglas) to the wall for falsifying evidence to maintain his perfect record of prosecution, Nicholas, with the help of newsroom buddy Corey (Joel David Moore), looks to implicate himself in a case of murder, providing an opportunity to expose Hunter’s underhanded tactics to all. Building a false impression of guilt on video to be revealed when the ideal courtroom moment hits, Nicholas’s plan goes awry, sending him to death row for a crime he swears he did not commit. The only person left to help Nicholas is Ella (Amber Tamblyn), his lover and Hunter’s protégé.

Mystery plays a pivotal role in “Reasonable Doubt,” but mystery is not exactly what Hyams achieves with his motion picture. Hey, it’s been tough out there for the filmmaker, who hasn’t made a decent movie since 1994’s “Timecop,” which probably says more about me than it does his creative passions. “Reasonable Doubt” has a very sludgy, workmanlike feel to it, made by filmmakers and actors who either are unskilled for this sort of challenge or just wanted a free trip to Louisiana.

Not really a courtroom drama nor explicitly a murder mystery, “Reasonable Doubt” hangs in a tedious void, running around in increasingly implausible circles as it waits to spring a twistapalooza in the final act, hoping to purple nerple viewers into thinking they’ve seen something sufficiently mind-bending. Trouble is, it takes 90 minutes of flaming illogic and infuriating Jesse Metcalfe emoting (he’s a sincerely unresponsive actor) to get to the ludicrous ending, making the payoff not worth the interminable journey.

Sure, Hyams plays it cool for the first act, but once Nicholas gets comfy in his rather ludicrous plan to act as a human bear trap, the film sheds all respectable pretenses and morphs into idiot thriller mode. The sort of movie where a guy ignites a stream of gasoline with a flicked cigarette, a television newsroom boss prefers to work completely in the dark, and a young woman is stalked by an automobile in a parking garage -- the film’s centerpiece action moment and a sequence that might encourage sensitive souls to eject the disc and fling it out of the nearest window.

Michael Douglas only pops up in the picture to say hello, taking on what amounts to a cameo role for reasons unclear (his screen panache is sorely missed). The rest of the film rests on the uncoordinated shoulders of Metcalfe, who is all wrong for the part. Hyams pours salt in the wound by encouraging Moore to act as the film’s comic relief. No thank you.

“Beyond a Reasonable Doubt” is one crummy idea after the next, leading to about three endings too many. It’s a film that posits an ambitious protagonist generating a tricky situation that slips beyond his control, watching in horror as his perfect world is destroyed. However, all I could summon while watching this clown of a character go about his moronic business was hope for a speedy execution.

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originally posted: 12/21/09 05:04:08
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User Comments

5/17/11 JHC Calling this movie "Total Crap" is an insult to crap. 1 stars
4/21/11 ed Ad i love jesse, but... 1 stars
12/27/09 action movie fan good remake of fritz lang,s thriller-surprise twist in suspensful thriller 4 stars
12/21/09 Jack Sommersby A first-rate courtroom thriller with a great final plot twist. 4 stars
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  11-Sep-2009 (PG-13)
  DVD: 22-Dec-2009


  DVD: 22-Dec-2009

[trailer] Trailer

Directed by
  Peter Hyams

Written by
  Peter Hyams

  Michael Douglas
  Amber Tamblyn
  Jesse Metcalfe
  Orlando Jones
  Joel David Moore

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