Beyond a reasonable plot ~ That Movie Blogger Fella

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Beyond a reasonable plot

Beyond a Reasonable Doubt
My rating:

"I will frame myself for murder if it means I get to 'rely on the love and trust' of Amber Tamblyn. Mmm. She hawt. And she definitely deserves better than Jesse Frigging Metcalfe." That's the penetratingly witty comment what won me the free invite to this movie's premiere screening. So hey, thanks and big ups to Nuffnang and Tayangan Unggul. You guys rock. Let's do this again sometime.

Too bad the movie sucks.

C.J. Nicholas (Jesse Metcalfe) is a TV reporter pursuing a story on District Attorney Mark Hunter (Michael Douglas), whom Nicholas believes is fabricating DNA evidence to win cases. Discouraged by his editor's lack of interest, he enlists his producer friend Corey Finley (Joel David Moore) in a ploy to frame himself for murder and expose Hunter during the trial. When the plan goes wrong, Nicholas' girlfriend - and Hunter's assistant DA - Ella Crystal (Amber Tamblyn) must step up and uncover the truth.

Here's another movie with a surprising pedigree - it's a remake of a 1956 Fritz Lang film, and apparently not a very well-regarded one. There's a spoiler-filled summary of it here, and it seems that movie has many of the same problems as this one - primarily, a ridiculous plot. I can actually buy the reason why intrepid investigative reporter C.J. would attempt a stunt like this for the sake of a story, even though my first impression was, why don't you try, like, I dunno, investigative reporting?

But even after I suspended my disbelief for the premise, the movie ran into problems. C.J. and Corey work out a plan, they tell us what the plan is, and for the entire first half all we see is them carrying out exactly what they planned. It's boring. No tension, no suspense, nothing to do but wait for when their plan goes awry, which of course it's going to. And when it does, it brings forth another of the film's biggest problems - namely, head-slapping stupidity.

So they've framed C.J. for the murder using entirely circumstantial evidence, right? The plan is to wait till Hunter introduces his planted evidence that supposedly links C.J. to the murder, and once he does, Corey is supposed to come in with the DVD they shot of how they faked the whole thing, right? So when Hunter does exactly that at the trial, C.J. turns around and excitedly nods to Corey, who... runs out of the courtroom to fetch the DVD. Why didn't he already have it with him?? The answer is, of course, because here's where the plan goes wrong. It even throws in a car chase at this point, because the movie thinks action can substitute for suspense.

And at this point, the movie does one thing right - the transition from C.J.'s point of view to Ella's. This could've been jarring, but it works largely due to how likable they made her in the first half. Or maybe it's because of how hawt I think Tamblyn is. (Doe-eyed redheads totally do it for me.) The thing is, although she does well in the role, she has absolutely zero chemistry with Metcalfe. The dialogue - by Peter Hyams, who wrote and directed - is clever and (fitfully) entertaining, but entirely too clever. The constant wisecracks undercut the emotion in scenes where Ella and C.J. are meant to be falling in love, and in fact lends a jokey sensibility to the entire film that undercuts everything. (The audience at my viewing kept chuckling even during serious scenes.)

Speaking of Hyams - what a hack. Just look at his track record. (I liked 2010, but that was 25 years ago.) I don't know if it's him or his editor, but the editing in this movie is awful. Even in a quiet romantic conversation scene, the camera keeps cutting back and forth so much, I kept thinking it's our Censorship Board's doing. But it's done on purpose, and it's disjointed and distracting and annoying as all hell.

Jesse Metcalfe plays the stereotypical smirky and wisecracking all-American hero, the kind of character Tom Cruise used to play before Cruise himself started looking for roles with more substance. I suppose the ladies will find him a worthy protagonist the same way I liked Tamblyn. Douglas plays smarmy villain effortlessly, but he's pretty much wasted - he simply doesn't get enough screen time, and even his comeuppance is given short shrift. Moore is the standard-order goofy sidekick, whose goofiness is highlighted in a cringe-inducing scene of him sucking up to the boss for yucks. Yuck.

I suppose the ending worked reasonably well, in that I didn't see it coming - but it also means that, for it to work, Ella has to have been incredibly blind and stupid not to spot a crucial clue until the screenplay allowed her to. This is the very definition of Idiot Plot - it only works because every character is an idiot. And what does this say about Hyams? Here's one last titbit - C.J. keeps harping about how this story will win a Pulitzer Prize. In the real world, they don't give Pulitzers for TV news. To miss this little nugget of info - or to not care about it at all - you'd have to be an idiot.

Anticipation level: I anticipate it'll be damn near unwatchable


Anonymous said...

yeah amber tamblyn is hot...
super cute...