Sunday, January 10, 2010

Beyond a Reasonable Doubt

BEYOND A REASONABLE DOUBT is a remake of a film from 1956 starring Dana Andrews and Joan Fontaine that I don’t recall ever seeing. This version got fairly bad reviews, but we needed something to watch and it was handy. I wound up enjoying it quite a bit.

Jesse Metcalfe plays an ambitious TV news reporter who discovers that the local district attorney (Michael Douglas) has been planting DNA evidence in order to win all his murder cases and fuel his bid to become governor. Unfortunately he doesn’t have any proof, so he comes up with an admittedly far-fetched plan: he frames himself for the murder of a prostitute and with the help of a fellow reporter documents everything so he can expose the DA when he comes to trial.

Well, you can guess that things don’t quite work out that way. The reporter winds up being convicted and sentenced to death, and it’s up to the pretty, young assistant district attorney (Amber Tamblyn) who’s fallen in love with him to find the evidence that will clear him and expose the villainy of her corrupt boss.

The whole thing is a little by-the-numbers, and you get the sense that, as in lots of Cornell Woolrich stories, the plot wouldn’t hold up too well to a close examination. However, there are some unexpectedly funny lines along the way, Joel Moore and Orlando Jones turn in good performances as Metcalfe’s fellow reporter/sidekick and an honest cop, respectively, and Michael Douglas makes a good villain. Plus I just like Amber Tamblyn and will watch her in almost anything. I would have handled the ending a little differently if I’d been writing the screenplay, but hey, that’s just me. I still think BEYOND A REASONABLE DOUBT is worth watching. Besides, how often do you get to see a movie that was filmed on location in Shreveport, set in Shreveport, and yet doesn’t indulge in stereotypical Southern characters and cheap shots at the South?


Rittster said...

The original was Fritz Lang's last American film. It was ok; no great shakes, though, so you're not missing anything. I've never really liked Lang's movies as much as the critics do, except for "M".

(And now, another word of useless trivia from our movie geek.)
You probably already know this, but Amber is the daughter of Russ Tamblyn, who was one of the best acrobatic dancers I've ever seen. West Side Story is one of about a dozen musicals I like, and as far as I'm concerned, Tamblyn's is the performance to beat, not Natalie Wood's or that Richard Beymer guy's. Russ is also good in one of those great, cheesy-sleazy JD flicks from the 50's--HIGH SCHOOL CONFIDENTIAL!, which sports the unique cast of Tamblyn, Mamie Van Doren, Jackie Coogan, Michael Landon, Charles Chaplin Jr., William Wellman Jr., and Jerry Lee Lewis, among others. It's on dvd, also. Directed by CREATURE FROM THE BLACK LAGOON director Jack Arnold.

You can now breathe a sigh of relief. I've run out of opinions for this comment.

Vince said...

The '56 film isn't any great shakes except for a decent final twist. I plan on watching the remake mainly to see if that plot turn survives.

James Reasoner said...

Yeah, I knew about the relationship between Amber and Russ. He was on her TV show JOAN OF ARCADIA several times, playing God, I believe.

HIGH SCHOOL CONFIDENTIAL is one of those movies I've heard of but never seen. Now, it's the newest addition to my never-ending Netflix list.