Beyond a Reasonable Doubt (2009)


Rating 1

Directed by Peter Hyams

Written by Peter Hyams, based on the 1956 screenplay by Douglas Morrow

Starring Amber Tamblyn (Ella Crystal), Jesse Metcalfe (C J Nicholas), Michael Douglas (Mark Hunter), Joel David Moore (Corey Finley), Orlando Jones (Ben Nickerson) and Lawrence P Beron (Anthony Merchant)

An investigative news reporter looking for a story that will take his career to the next level suspects that the District Attorney, who is hotly tipped to be the next State Governor, has been deliberately planting evidence to secure convictions in high profile murder cases. To prove his suspicions, he deliberately fabricates circumstantial evidence against himself in an unsolved murder, but his plan goes horribly wrong.


‘Beyond a Reasonable Doubt’ is a 2009 remake of a classic 1956 film with the same title. That film, starring Dana Andrews and Joan Fontaine, was the last American film directed by the legendary Austrian film director Fritz Lang, who was responsible for several landmark films including the 1927 German silent masterpiece ‘Metropolis’. This flat remake is anything but a classic.

Michael Douglas is reasonably effective as the smarmy District Attorney, but his character, like everything else in this film, is far too flimsy. Jesse Metcalfe gives the most charisma-free acting performance I have had the misfortune of viewing in a very long time and manages to bring down Amber Tamblyn, an intelligent and more than competent actress, with him. There is no on-screen chemistry with Metcalfe and her performance here is lifeless and uninvolving. She put me in mind of Sandra Bullock, without ever managing to project the spark that Bullock can bring to her performances, even in some of her more regrettable film choices.

The first 45 minutes or so are dire, killed by Metcalfe’s calamitous absence of presence. Matters do improve after that when Tamblyn takes centre-stage, but the climactic scenes are badly botched and the twist is so blatantly obvious, almost from the start and without needing to have any prior familiarity with the original film, that to say it’s an anti-climax would be a gross understatement. The film even manages to squeeze in a painfully dull and predictable car chase.

‘Beyond a Reasonable Doubt’ has a zero rating at Rotten Tomatoes from 22 reviews. I have no doubt it is not the only film to ever receive a zero rating, but it is the first one that I have come across.

Writer and director Peter Hyams has had a long career, which has produced a mixed bag of results, from interesting earlier outings like ‘Capricorn One’ and ‘Outland’ to the slightly more recent horror films ‘Relic’ and ‘End of Days’, with a couple of Jean-Claude Van Damme films in between. His past record suggests that he is a better director than this lame and hackneyed debacle would indicate.

Review posted 23 November 2009


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