Thursday, April 24, 2014

Beyond a Reasonable Doubt (2009)

Some of you – the whole three of you that read this site regularly – may have been wondering where I have been recently. Well, last month I saw a movie called Beyond a Reasonable Doubt. A 2009 remake of a 1956 crime thriller, it looked promising simply due to having Michael Douglas in a starring role – an actor I always hold in high esteem.

However, upon viewing the film, I had to retreat to a monastery of Buddhist monks to try and gain inner peace over my mind – for there was no other way to accurately talk about this film. Otherwise, I probably would have burst into flames with blood shooting out my eyes and snakes coming out my ears trying to talk about everything bad in it. I would have been rabid. You would have had to send over Animal Control with a tranc gun and a fucking fishing net – there would have been no way I could have formatted my thoughts into a coherent review.

After weeks of intense mental mastery and calming of my spirit, I have returned. With me, I bring the story of this film. What a twisted and macabre tale it is.

Director: Peter Hyams
Starring: Amber Tamblyn, Jesse Metcalfe, Michael Douglas

This is a movie about a couple of journalists who plot to get implicated in a murder just to prove the D.A., played by Douglas, is corrupt. If there's a difference between this movie and a garbage dump, I really haven't found it yet. Except the garbage dump is actually useful to society, and this is not.

We kick the movie off with our main “hero” C.J. Nicholas, played by Jesse Metcalfe. He’s about as douchey of a main character as you’ll ever find. I’m sure Metcalfe is a nice guy, but his performance here is just god-awful, and the character is one of the most annoying and pretentious I’ve come across since Bad Kids Go to Hell. In fact, I spoke to the writers of Bad Kids Go to Hell while researching for this review, and they told me they would have been ashamed to be associated with characters like this. Ouch!

So we get Nicholas, a journalist, watching a court trial where District Attorney Michael Douglas presents evidence to put a guy behind bars for murder. Nicholas approaches Douglas’s assistant, a beautiful woman named Ella Crystal, to try and get some files on Douglas. I think that’s the first plot hole of the film – Ella Crystal? Is she missing her shift at the local sleazy topless bar to appear in this movie?


Anyway, this character is also horribly written. I’m sure actress Amber Tamblyn was trying, but the script once again turns the character into an unlikable and wretched one. Nicholas flirts with her and asks her out. At first she acts uninterested, like a regular girl would – but within the span of two seconds, she suddenly changes her tone and is totally ready to let him rip her clothes off and ravage her in bed.

What? You think I’m kidding? No, seriously – like a few scenes later they’re fucking and she’s spending the whole night at his place and having breakfast with him in the morning. It’s like the relationship version of those pills lazy people take to try and get fit in place of actual exercise. We don’t need any of that pesky character development or interesting dialogue. Just show them giggling for two seconds at a table with food, then fade to them fucking at his house. That’s all you need!

CHARACTER DEVELOPMENT!!!!

The whole thing is just so retarded. There’s no better word! She’s an interesting female character for about two seconds, then becomes a cardboard cut-out waste of screen space only there to defend her man.

I guess there’s some backstory about how Nicholas got famous for making some news story about a black pregnant prostitute who got kicked out of her house. Or some shit like that. I dunno. Just go watch Precious instead.

When he isn’t boning the cardboard cutout this movie passes off for a love interest, Nicholas spends his time doing retarded things with that guy from Bones, Hatchet and a billion other things and you still can’t remember his name:


Oh, fuck it – his name is Joel David Moore. No, this movie will not be a step up in his career from The Hottie and the Nottie. He does OK I guess, but really what does he have to work with anyway? He’s pretty much just a plastic ‘best friend’ character with no thoughts or independent will of his own.

Together these two morons plot to implicate Nicholas in a murder case just so Nicholas can prove Michael Douglas makes up evidence in order to get a conviction. That’s a monumentally dumb idea! But they go ahead and just do it. Taping everything they’re doing, they go ahead and frame Nicholas for the murder. They get a knife so it looks like he bought a knife (real stretch there!), buy a dog just to have it bite him on the leg and a whole bunch of other nonsense that I won’t bother going over.

"Durrr, awesome, we're on a crime scene, that totally makes this a legit serious crime thriller now. Look at how relevant and meaningful this is to the world!"
That fat guy behind the counter is my favorite character in the movie, just because he's the only one who doesn't let Pretty Boy McDouche there just take whatever he wants. 

These scenes are just padding. They aren’t really referenced again in the rest of the film, and mostly just serve to be as bland as humanly possible. Good films can make even the filler scenes seem important and vital, through strong acting, directing and writing. Bad films just have scenes for the sake of scenes. Get to the next scene you bimbos! Time is money! Pfft.

So after a couple more scenes of the writer jerking himself off by making the love interest character perfect and subservient to Nicholas in every way, Nicholas finally gets arrested. Love interest girl shows up at his jail cell and starts immediately swearing to quit her job and help him on the defense team, acting flabbergasted that he suggests she choose her career over him. Because you know, women don’t really have goals or lives of their own. They just exist to pamper and serve douchebags who put themselves in prison on murder charges, on purpose.

"I have no personality, and I'm OK with that."

Apparently the plan Nicholas and his buddy have goes like this: they have a secret videotape locked in a safe at a bank that can prove Nicholas’s innocence and also prove that Douglas plants evidence to cheat murder trials. Why not just have the tape on you when you walk into the courtroom? Wouldn’t that save time? It probably would – which is why the movie doesn’t just do that.

Instead, we get a loooooong drawn out scene of poor Joel Moore running around with his head cut off, scrambling to make it back to the courtroom on time to show the tape. He gets into a stupid conversation at the bank with a really annoying employee, who of course can’t just do her fucking job and has to draw out everything pointlessly with banal conversation – a prime example of the poor writing this movie regularly displays.

I’m really not sure why Moore is hurrying so much – just to make it look more natural for Nicholas and his defense lawyer? I mean, there’s not so much of a time constraint that you can’t slow the fuck down and be safe. Unfortunately,  speed does kill, and one of Douglas’s lackeys gets Moore into a car accident and kills him. Yes, this is turning into a bad James Bond parody.

Yeah! Next remake Twelve Angry Men and put in a five minute sex scene and some ninja fighting. That oughta do it!

So the movie doesn’t really dwell at all on Nicholas feeling bad about losing his best friend. Instead he gets sent to jail and sentenced to death row. The girlfriend then becomes the main character, and sets about trying to clear Nicholas’s name. She finds some tech support place that can look and see if crime scene photos are doctored. There, she finds out the shocking truth – Michael Douglas really does falsify evidence to win his cases! Guess how? I’ll give you a second to think.

….

Done? OK. Get ready for this. It’s going to blow your mind, the ingenious scheme he came up with to cheat the system and frame people for crimes they may not have committed. Are you ready for this? He takes the crime scene photos and just edits in whatever he needs to make it look like they did it. For example, he edits in a cigarette smoked by the suspect into the crime scene photo, thus making it look more convincing that they actually did murder the victim.

Oh, and of course they can't even just have a normal lame exposition scene, they have to include two lab techs who clearly have never seen a woman in years and are in the running for worst characters in the movie. These characters are so annoying, I find myself wondering if this whole thing wasn't just some kind of horrible schadenfraude. Some kind of punishment!

How has nobody ever caught this? Shouldn’t it be pretty goddamned obvious? What happens; does he just buy off the lab techs and the police who take the photos and the defense lawyers who have to look at the same photos? Does Michael Douglas just have a magical ray that turns everyones’ brains to pudding when he’s working a case?

Oh well. It’s not like his character is really anything special. He’s so un-subtle as a villain, you might as well add horns, a tail and fangs to him. In fact...

SUBTLETY!!!!

That's better!

So love interest girl, with this new knowledge, leaves to set everything right. However, in the parking garage, she’s confronted by another cliché: the henchman guy tries to kill her in his car to prevent her from talking.


How would he explain that in the morning anyway? “Whoops, she accidentally got killed outside of a forensics lab where several other people knew the same shocking secret she did about a prominent public figure and were not killed! Oh, and her blood got on my car by accident. I guess it’s just one of those weird coincidences!”


This whole thing is so fuckin’ dumb. A fucking car chase scene, are you kidding me? It’s as cheap as thrills get. There’s no entertainment value in this; it’s like putting a random topless dance scene in the middle of the next Halloween remake. Oh, wait, Rob Zombie already did that in both of the other remakes, and it was about as pandering, cheap and banal as this is.

So the henchman gets shot by the Helpful Black Cop (a cliché that is never over-used!) and Douglas gets arrested the next day. Nicholas is then free to come make out with love interest girl, thus fulfilling her only purpose in life.

The couple that nobody was thinking about finally gets together at the end. Hooray?

But wait! Because love interest girl saw a photograph of the girl’s hands who Nicholas was accused of killing, and matched up the tattoos on her hand to the ones in that video of the prostitute Nicholas did a story on, she realizes he DID kill that hooker for REAL! DUN DUN DUN!

So apparently he killed the hooker for real because she was the same one he did that story on. Only the story was actually made up, and now she was trying to hit him up for money. Clearly murdering her in cold blood was the only option. I so love the creative process when it can serve up absolute garbage-bin-level trash writing like this. It just makes me so warm and fuzzy inside.

Plus, killing a hooker for real, then faking evidence, all to get publicity? Awesome plan. Right up there with the underwater electrical socket and the camouflage after-dark running outfit.

Love interest girl calls the cops and leaves his place, looking back at him only to say “fuck you!” I haven’t been this burned since grade school when a girl with pigtails told me I smelled! What a great ending line. If you're nine years old and addicted to Grand Theft Auto. In which case your parents should be flogged in the public square a la Hunger Games: Catching Fire.

Eugh, douche chills, just looking at this.

Really, though, it’s all a bit of a moot point, because in real life, anyone who wasted the court’s time “going undercover” framing themselves for a murder trial, would be locked up in jail anyway. To suggest otherwise, as the movie does, is so ludicrous I can’t even begin to make a comparison to courtroom movies equally terrible. There’s nothing else this dumb. This wins the prize. For pure cliché, low-brow tripe, Beyond a Reasonable Doubt wins. In other words, fuck YOU, movie.

This is the kind of thing that just makes society dumber. There is so much pandering in this thing, to the lowest common denominator possible. The dumbass romance subplot, the explosions, the car chases - all garbage filtered in and spoonfed to a pre-supposed audience, as if the court drama intrigue wouldn't be enough. The movie didn't even have enough confidence in itself to stand alone without selling out to every cliché imaginable. It's not like the actual plot was done any better. The courtroom scenes are laughably poor and the ending plot twist is done in the worst way possible, with very little build up or reason for it. None of this is in any way educational or useful to society. If it was entertaining, maybe that wouldn't matter, but that ship sailed long ago.

I literally can't think of even one redeeming factor. It's the kind of movie that takes serious issues like crime and corruption in the justice system, pulls down its pants and farts in those issues' faces.

Images copyright of their original owners; I own none of them.