Beyond a Reasonable Doubt (US - BD)
Gabe ends the year watching an almost unbelievably lame courtroom thriller...
High powered district attorney Martin Hunter (Michael Douglas) has a nearly perfect track record in court, and is on his way to becoming the next governor. Upstart investigative journalist CJ Nicholas (Jesse Metcalfe), who happens to be dating Hunter’s assistant DA Ella (Amber Tamblyn), has possible proof that the DA is planting DNA evidence, but can’t get anyone to listen to his claim. In hopes of exposing Hunter, and of a Pulitzer Prize for himself, CJ hatches a plan to purposefully incriminate himself in a murder investigation using circumstantial evidence. Unfortunately this incredibly stupid plan, which will place him in prison as the only suspect, does not go off without a hitch.
Beyond a Reasonable Doubt is an incredibly predictable episode of Law and Order that somehow found the funding to be made into a ‘real’ film. Apparently a remake of a Fritz Lang film from 1956 (which I have not seen), this remake ports the original plot into modern times without taking into account how clearly hackneyed the idea would be outside of 1956 noir, where I’m sure it worked just fine. With realistic modern sensibilities in place the lead character’s actions are painfully idiotic, and the dialogue is awkwardly and unnecessarily wordy, not to mention tired and strikingly unoriginal. If the filmmakers had no good reason to retell the story, or new twist to put on the story other than some modern criminal investigation and forensic operations, they probably should’ve left it alone. I mostly feel sorry for the young actors, who really give it their all, but are still overshadowed by the bad script, and Michael Douglas’ bored walkthrough.
The film goes from obnoxiously unlikely to full on dumbass when for some reason the crack investigator leads only make two copies of their DVD, and don’t have any of them on their person at all times. This leads to the less attractive half of the duo’s death, via a car accident, and a lit cigarette that blows up the car. The scene around the 90 minute point where two nerds explain metadata to the female lead appears to be the low point, but as she leaves she’s menaced by a would be killer that apparently has no interest in getting the hell out of his car to do his business. And then there’s a last minute twist, and the stupid stuff gets even stupider. The film’s most clear cut (pun intended) technical problem is its editing, which is a rhythmic mess of arbitrary choices. These choices are jarring for all the wrong reasons, including both sudden leaps in time and unnecessarily chopped bits basic character interaction. This is especially troubling considering the technically adept resume of writer/director Peter Hyams. Hyams has never made a great film, but he’s clearly above such obvious shortcomings. Hyams’ cinematographer’s eye serves the film visually, of course, but nothing beyond a particularly well endowed television series.
It isn’t a very good movie, but Anchor Bay’s Blu-ray scores pretty big points in the video department. The transfer is very sharp, and incredibly crisp. The whole film is visually defined by a lot of gels, usually warm yellows and oranges, but occasionally cool blues (and in one case everything is gelled entirely green), which leads to some gloriously deep blacks that feature perfectly sharp edges. The majority of harsh whites are slightly diffused, and generally less sharp, clearly on purpose, but no less clean. Some of the darker scenes feature blotchy noise instead of grain, leading me to believe that someone got a little happy with the DNR on this transfer. Signs of this can be found in the general lack of fine grain throughout the film, but it’s only an issue here and there, including some less than even background color gradients.
Beware, your Beyond a Reasonable Doubt Blu-ray will default to a compressed Dolby Digital 5.1 track, even though there is a slightly superior PCM 5.1 track to sample. The film is mostly a frontal assault, excepting some of the musical cues, and some decent echo effects. The mix is acceptable, but not exactly perfect. When outdoors the front speakers are pretty consistently lively with wind, car, and chirping bird effects, while indoor shots feature crisper and less ambiguous effects, with more pointed directional origins. There isn’t a lot here concerning sheer quantity, but it’s fine considering the film’s less than action packed or stylized origins (two reasonably loud car chases notwithstanding). The dialogue is the major problem, featuring awkward echo effects in the stereo channels, and an odd sounding LFE presence. The PCM track is a little better than the DD track in this regard, but not terribly so. The film’s musical score is as predictable as the plot, but sounds pretty rich, and has a beautifully punchy LFE presence.
Extras begin with a half hearted commentary track featuring director Peter Hyams and lead actor Jesse Metcalfe. The participants are pleasant enough, but don’t exactly dive headfirst into any particularly technical discussion. Mostly the focus is set upon hand shakes and back slaps, and there’s almost no discussion of the original film. This seems to be a case of under-preparation, not any kind of malicious intent, but the blank spots are pretty numbing. Next up is ‘The Whole Truth: The Making of Beyond a Reasonable Doubt (3:10, HD), which is very much an elongated trailer, and not a real making-of featurette. ‘Criminal Forensics – The Burden of Proof’ (3:30, HD) threatens to be an interesting real world look at the film, but this too feels more like another trailer. Ironically enough this is followed by…a trailer, and trailers for other Anchor Bay Blu-ray releases.
Any film that ends with the line 'I just thought of one more thing (long pause) …fuck you' can’t be all bad. Especially since we’re talking about a PG-13 movie here. That means that Peter Hyams saved his one f-bomb for that moment. It was supposed to mean something. That has to signal that the entire film is a joke. IF it didn’t, I am sorry to say that this was one of the worst professionally produced films I saw all year. The movie moves, is attractive, and the young actors are solid, but that’s about it, I am sorry to say. The video quality is quite impressive, and the audio options are good despite a few minor quality quibbles, but the extras aren’t particularly impressive, basically amounting to a series of ads for the film.
Review by Gabriel Powers
Some material may be inappropriate for children under 13
Release Date: 22nd December 2009
Disc Type: Blu-ray Disc
Audio: PCM 5.1 English, Dolby Digital 5.1 English
Subtitles: English SDH and Spanish
Extras: Director and Actor Commentary, The Whole Truth: The Making of Beyond a Reasonable Doubt, Criminal Forensics - The Burden of Proof, Digital Copy
Easter Egg: No
Director: Peter Hyams
Cast: Michael Douglas, Jesse Metcalfe, Amber Tamblyn, Dave Jensen
Genre: Drama and Thriller
Length: 105 minutes
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