Beyond a Reasonable Doubt
Directed by Peter Hyams
Though it doesn't make a big thing about it, Peter Hyams' Beyond a Reasonable Doubt is a remake of the last movie Fritz Lang made in America. A story about an ambitious journalist going to unusual lengths to expose the corruption of the local district attorney, the new version doesn't jimmy much with the plot or themes of Lang's—the updates are mostly technological. DVDs, DNA and Google searches provide the evidence, but the leaps of logic that stretched credibility in the 1956 film remain.
Shreveport television reporter C.J. (Jesse Metcalfe) is so sure that Michael Douglas's D.A.'s hot streak of convictions is tainted that he convinces his co-worker to help him frame himself for an unsolved murder. Videotaping his accrual of only circumstantial evidence (buying a ski mask, pepper-spraying himself), C.J. will then wait for D.A. Hunt to bring forensic evidence to the jury, which C.J.'s DVD will prove is phony. If one of the countless things that could go wrong does, it could mean execution for C.J. Sick of covering coffee taste-testings and doggie olympics, though, he's just desperate enough to do it. C.J. is also conflicted after he forges a romance with Hunt's assistant, played by Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants's Amber Tamblyn, who he won over by showing her an investigative piece that won him an award when he lived in Buffalo (we know the footage is from Buffalo because he's wearing a heavy pea coat in it).
If you let yourself become inured to the movie's absurdities (C.J. only makes one copy of the DVD! The D.A. discovers the plot but still goes forward with the trial!), you'll be pleasantly diverted. Metcalfe's lightweight prettiness can't carry the movie—they mostly make you look forward to the scenes with Douglas, who has disappointingly little screen time. Beyond a Reasonable Doubt contrasts unfavorably with another Hyams-Douglas legal thriller, 1983's The Star Chamber, a more gripping, handsome, and weighty picture across the board. That movie climaxed with a dazzling, baroquely lit warehouse shootout. Here, Tamblyn's character is assaulted in that laziest of suspense movie settings—a parking garage, indicative of this movie's general "who cares" chintziness.
Opens September 11