A revisiting of Fritz Lang’s 1956 heralded courtroom thriller by Peter Hyams (End Of Days, The Relic, Timecop), Beyond A Reasonable Doubt also gets a fresh coat of cinematic paint when it comes to social context and current cultural concerns. And while Lang’s moody noir dabbled subliminally in the deeply embedded paranoia that marked the 20th century’s festering Red Scare, Hyams’ take on dubious criminal justice practices focuses instead on an often economically self-serving US culture of revenge, in a nation detaining in the millions the largest prison population in the world.
Jesse Metcalfe switches it up from his buffed for booty shirtless gardener in Desperate Housewives, as C.J. Nicholas. He’s a cub reporter on the case of Shreveport DA Hunter (Michael Douglas), a ruthlessly ambitious chief prosecutor with a perfect score of convictions, whom Nicholas suspects of rigging evidence and framing defendants as stepping stones to the governor’s mansion.
So Nicolas concocts a convoluted premeditated scheme to frame Hunter for real, by setting himself up as a prime suspect in the slaying of a prostitute, and then hopefully exposing Hunter and a detective cohort as having planted evidence against him. Meanwhile, Nicholas is shacking up with Hunter’s hottie assistant DA (Amber Tamblyn), a genius move which may just come in handy later on. Or maybe not.
Actually not adding much to legendary filmmaking legend Lang’s vintage classic, beyond the prop potentials with criminal intent of photoshopping, Hyams’ Beyond A Reasonable Doubt is somewhat conscientiously creepy while teasing with plot twists galore. But the finale is just too rushed and tied up a bit too neatly, to correlate in measured pace and mood with whatever preceded before. Though Metcalfe isn’t bad, in handling viewer baiting and seduction as well as he does his tool, in a random horny houswife’s garden.
Anchor Bay Entertainment
2 1/2 stars
DVD features: Audio Commentary With Writer, Director and Cinematographer Peter Hyams and Actor Jesse Metcalfe; Featurettes: The Whole Truth: The Making Of Beyond A Reasonable Doubt; Criminal Foprensics: The Burden Of Proof; Theatrical Trailers.