For his remake of Fritz Lang’s last American film, 1956’s Beyond a Reasonable Doubt, Peter Hyams retains the German Expressionist’s narrative conceit but otherwise ratchets up the sleek car-commercial flashiness. Whereas Lang’s original was a condemnation of U.S. capital punishment, Hyams’s do-over has no such weighty issues on its mind. Instead, it’s merely content to spin a tale of murder and intrigue about the efforts of transplanted TV news reporter C.J. Nicholas (a false Jesse Metcalfe) to frame himself for the murder of a prostitute in order to expose the evidence-planting tactics of star district attorney Mark Hunter (Michael Douglas). Set in Shreveport, Louisiana, the story has about as much local flavor as it does logic, though the director nonetheless initially keeps the proceedings mildly engaging by simply adhering to his source material, detailing C.J. and his goofy sidekick Corey’s (Joel Moore) careful execution and recording of their ruse. Despite a focus on glossy suspense, however, there’s little outright tension, as Hyams, aside from a vigorous car chase sequence, mistakenly attempts to generate excitement not via his story’s underlying legal system conflicts (image vs. reality, justice vs. self-interest) but through hokey twists and turns that render the action facile. As the dapper D.A., Douglas dons a swank suit and a smooth-operator smile that makes plain his true nature, with the character’s one-dimensionality matched by that of both C.J. and his love interest, assistant D.A. Ella (Amber Tamblyn), a couple that shares all the chemistry of a bologna and caviar sandwich. Once C.J.‘s ploy hits a monumental snag, it’s Ella who commands the film’s centerstage during a third act that involves much snooping and running around but few bombshells—unless, that is, one is coming to these Thriller 101 proceedings as a genre neophyte and can’t foresee the film’s clumsily foreshadowed, hard-to-swallow climactic revelation.
- Anchor Bay Films
- 105 min
- Peter Hyams
- Peter Hyams
- Jesse Metcalfe, Amber Tamblyn, Michael Douglas, Joel David Moore, Orlando Jones
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