Beyond a Reasonable Doubt: Movie Review

Even if you don’t watch a lot of movies, the twists in this movie will still bore you and come off as cheesy. Seriously, even if the only movie you’ve ever seen is The Lion King, you will still watch these twists unfold and register zero shock.

Probably not the intention they were going for, but, that’s Beyond a Reasonable Doubt. A remake of a film from the 50s. You have a District Attorney who has rattled off a string of murder convictions. A number so high that he is well beyond “He’s On Fire!” territory in NBA Jam. He’s a good District Attorney, is what they’re trying to establish with that (and a really cheesy closing statement line that the lead character eats up). But, wait! There’s more. A reporter has “uncovered” that the District Attorney, played by Michael Douglas in a role so brutal that undoubtedly had to make Douglas wonder what it would be like if he brought his Falling Down role to reality, is planting DNA/forensic/CSI! evidence on crime scenes that consist of otherwise circumstantial evidence. The reporter, played by some dude I’ve never heard of, seeks to bring him down based on very little evidence that they reveal to the audience. How does he have to do this? Well, of course he has to find a murder, and then plant circumstantial evidence that HE, the reporter, committed the murder, then wait for the DA to plant forensic evidence.

Of course.

The concept more or less only works as a comedy, yet, this was trying to pull off a Thriller.

Orlando Jones provides the strongest performance. That’s about all the positive I can say about this film. Amber Tamblyn appeared to be comfortably rested in her scenes, possibly taking naps while actually filming the scenes as they were so tepid, would be the next most positive thing.

Here’s the best part of this film. And by best, I mean “the thing I googled and laughed about the most” while watching. The main character is doing a news story for TV on the DAs alleged transgressions in order to win a Pulitzer Prize. The wikipedia page for the Pulitzer Prize says the following, “The Pulitzer Prize is a U.S. award for achievements in newspaper and online journalism, literature and musical composition.”

Click Read More if you want the rest of the review, but, be warned, it contains SPOILERS. As frankly, this movie is so bad that the only way I can handle writing about it is by covering the spoilers.

So, the circumstantial evidence gets planted on a dead hooker. The reporter goes to jail. He has an accomplice filming all of the planting of the circumstantial evidence. He has to buy rare Italian sneakers. He has to buy a skimask and hit it with pepper spray. He has to buy a little dog and have it bite him. He has to buy track pants. He has to buy a switchblade and put in in the washing machine.

He plants this evidence, gets arrested and the murder trial begins. Part way through the trial, the DA and the Detective he works with realize they’re being set up. This is before the forensics evidence gets planted.

I would have gone with the DA just saying the hell with it, not planting the forensics evidence and still convicting the guy for murder. But, they go for the rather cliche “have the detective steal the DVD and kill the accomplice and still plant the DNA evidence” route.

So, this sets up the thrilling legal scenes where the main character boringly gets convicted and sentenced to death. Shockingly, his “I bought this stuff after the murder, here are the receipts” doesn’t work when Douglas simply asks him whether owning this stuff before the murder would prevent him from buying the stuff after the murder. Oh.

Which means now an Assistant District Attorney, Amber Tamblyn, has to exonerate the reporter, who is also her boyfriend. She fell in love with him based on a piece that he did with some woman who had a painful drug addiction, or something. I don’t know, but, they showed the tattoos on this womans hands way too much for it not to mean something later.

So, she exonerates him, based on finding out proof that a photo was doctored in another of the DAs cases. Then, she finds out the woman in the newspiece she loved so much was the dead hooker and the news reporter really did kill here.  If you made it to the end, you’re crazy disappointed with yourself. But, fortunately, Tamblyn steps to the doorway as the police arrive (with main character asking “WHAT DID YOU DO?!” uh, she called the police when she found out you kill somebody, clearly), and says the final line of the movie. And, I laughed. A lot. So bad, yet, so fitting for this film.

I don’t want to necessarily bash this movie for just having a really obvious plot that tries hard for twists that you see coming from a mile away. A lot of movies are like that. A lot of books are like that. But, here, you really have no level of care for any of these characters.

1. The news reporter only presents one case in the long string wins for the DA. And, it’s kind of weak. So, the audience doesn’t much care for supporting this flimsy evidence, especially when its clear to the audience he’s not exhausting all options. Sure, that makes the last twist all the more obvious, but, there needs to be something done for us to like him and what he’s doing. I was rooting for this guy to get convicted of the murder the entire way.

2. So, when the DA finds out the reporter is trying to set him up, we’re supposed to just make the leap that the DA goes from planting evidence to convict people he probably is convinced are guilty…to wanting to convict a guy who he suddenly thinks might be innocent? And, the detective is OK with killing his accomplice? Not sure I buy that.

There’s nothing here that makes you want to grip on to the cheesy plot twists. If there are good characters, your OK with a plot being silly or obvious, because the ride is going to be enjoyable. That just wasn’t the case here. There were some decent comedic moments between the reporter and his accomplice, but, not enough to make this a worthwhile 90 or so minutes.

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