Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Why Would A Man Frame Himself For Murder?

Or why would Michael Douglas waste his time in a movie this dumb?

Peter Hyams, once a crowdpleasing if critically lambasted maker of slick action movies like CAPRICORN ONE and TIMECOP (his BUSTING seriously deserves more recognition), scrapes the bottom of the creative barrel with this ludicrously mounted remake of a Fritz Lang noir. BEYOND A REASONABLE DOUBT played with little fanfare or advertising in just a few theaters earlier this year before its equally quiet DVD release this month.

C.J. Nicholas (Jesse Metcalfe, DANGEROUS HOUSEWIVES), a stupid and unlikeable TV reporter (he’s not intended to be), tries to prove bigshot Shreveport district attorney Mark Hunter (a blond Michael Douglas, who starred in Hyams' THE STAR CHAMBER in 1984) is planting evidence to win convictions by framing himself for a murder. The idea is to have his unfunny comic relief partner (Joel David Moore) hold the exoneration evidence and then ambush Hunter with it after the D.A. forged the DNA proof against him. You can see the holes in this plan from Saturn.

Worse than Hyams’ clumsy plotting is his dialogue, particularly the sad romantic banter between C.J. and assistant D.A. Ella Crystal (Amber Tamblyn), which is more Sach and Slip than Nick and Nora. There is absolutely no basis for C.J.’s belief in Hunter’s guilt; hence, no reason for the story to exist and no reason to make the film in the first place. And then there’s that surprise ending.

Douglas is fine, though not particularly engaged, and he’s not in it very much anyway. Metcalfe is a complete drip, and the pretty Tamblyn is wasted. The real shame is that Hyams doesn’t even know how to direct a good car chase anymore.

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