Beyond a Reasonable Doubt (2009 film)

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Beyond a Reasonable Doubt
Beyond a Reasonable Doubt 2009 Poster.jpg
Directed byPeter Hyams
Produced bySteven Saxton
Stephanie Caleb
Courtney Solomon
Written byPeter Hyams (Screenplay) Douglas Morrow
StarringJesse Metcalfe
Amber Tamblyn
Michael Douglas
Joel Moore
Orlando Jones
Music byDavid Shire
CinematographyPeter Hyams
Edited byJeff Gullo
Distributed byAfter Dark Films
Anchor Bay Films
Autonomous Films
Release date
  • September 11, 2009 (2009-09-11)
Running time
106 minutes
CountryUnited States
Budget$25 million
Box office$3,992,844[1]

Beyond a Reasonable Doubt is a 2009 American crime drama film and a remake of the 1956 film of the same name by Fritz Lang. Written, directed and filmed by Peter Hyams, the new version starred Jesse Metcalfe, Michael Douglas and Amber Tamblyn. The production was announced in February 2008 and filming began the following month.[2]


C. J. Nicholas (Jesse Metcalfe) built his career on an award-winning documentary about a pregnant teenage prostitute in Buffalo, New York, who died of a drug overdose after the death of her baby. He now works as a TV reporter in Shreveport, Louisiana covering human interest stories while trying to reestablish himself as a serious journalist through the investigative unit he runs along with fellow reporter Corey Finley (Joel Moore). Having shadowed several of his cases, Nicolas is convinced that Shreveport District Attorney Mark Hunter (Michael Douglas) is corrupt. A former police detective, Hunter has built his own career on a recent unbroken string of 17 convictions based only on last minute circumstantial evidence. His reputation for successful convictions has led to him being talked about as a potential candidate for Governor of Louisiana. After flirting with Assistant D.A. Ella Crystal (Amber Tamblyn) to obtain an videotape that he hopes will be revealing, they begin dating and fall in love, despite Crystal knowing C.J.'s distrust of her boss.

The videotape provided by Crystal suggests to Nicholas that Hunter is using one of his investigators, Lt. Merchant, to obtain DNA evidence from suspects in custody and plant the evidence to support a conviction. Merchant was the lead detective on each of the 17 arrests that led to convictions. The only hangup on Nicolas' theory is that he can't prove how the evidence was planted at the scene if it was obtained afterwards when the suspect was in custody. Unable to prove his claim against Hunter, his boss is forced to cancel his investigative unit due to budget cuts. Nicolas and Finley are both demoted to general assignment. Despite the setback, Nicholas becomes even more determined to expose Hunter.

He concocts an elaborate scheme to frame himself for the murder of a prostitute using circumstantial evidence. His passion for the project enlists reluctant support from Finley. Finley accompanies him as he obtains objects online and from pawn shops that will circumstantially link Nicholas to the murder. Finley records these instances on video with Nicholas holding a newspaper showing the date to be after the date of the murder. The original video is kept in Finley's desk and a back-up copy is placed in a safe deposit box.

Nicholas gets himself arrested for DUI by Lt. Nickerson (Orlando Jones), an acquaintance and police contact of Nicholas, while wearing his falsified circumstantial evidence. He is arrested and charged with the murder. Merchant, however, requests that the case be transferred to him to steal credit for the DA, much to Nickerson's dismay. Upon closer investigations of Nicholas' recent activities, he becomes suspicious and informs Hunter that Nicholas is trying to set them up.

Crystal, who still doesn't know what Nicholas has been plotting, visits him in jail and offers to quit her job and join his defense team, but he convinces her not to do so.

The next step in the plan is to wait until the prosecution rests its case, then introduce the documentary evidence exposing the truth. Hunter instructs Merchant to destroy the video evidence. Finley finds his desk ransacked. Panicked, he tries to retrieve the back-up, but is pursued by Merchant in a high-speed chase in which he is killed, and the back-up video destroyed.

Nicholas reveals his plot in court using only the dated receipts for his falsified evidence, but Hunter casts doubt on his story. Nicholas has no proof that the victim's blood, which was found on the false evidence, was planted by Hunter's people. In addition, with Finley's death, he does not have the visual proof of his plan. The jury convicts Nicholas for the crime, and he is sentenced to death.

Crystal still believes in Nicholas and begins her own investigation, unaware that Hunter knew she was dating Nicholas. She is followed by Merchant. Meanwhile, on death row, Hunter visits Nicolas in prison to reveal that his phone calls to Crystal, guiding her investigation, have been recorded.

Crystal obtains crime scene photos from Hunter's convictions and takes them to digital photography experts, who determine that the objects containing the suspect's DNA evidence in each case have been digitally added to the original photos after the fact.

When she attempts to take this evidence to the police, Merchant tries to kill her with his car while she flees on foot. She is rescued by Lt. Nickerson, who shoots Merchant dead. Nickerson reveals that he suspected Merchant was up to no good, and he had been "following him following" Crystal.

The doctored photo evidence leads to Hunter's arrest in a public scandal. C.J. is released, his conviction declared a mistrial, and he becomes a media celebrity. Hunter's convictions (including C.J.'s) are due to be re-examined by the state.

Crystal, however, begins to suspect that the evidence reveals something else. After re-watching Nicholas' Buffalo documentary, she recognizes the hands of the prostitute as the same hands of the victim in the murder for which Nicholas was convicted. She correctly deduces that the Nicolas hired the woman to play the prostitute in the documentary, and that the woman later came to Shreveport to blackmail Nicholas. She realizes that Nicholas really did kill her, then used the murder in his scheme against Hunter. Crystal confronts C.J. with the evidence, and is horrified when he desperately attempts to defend himself by stating that the woman was going to bleed him dry, and implying that exposing Hunter's corruption and false convictions was worth her life. Crystal tells him that all of this was never about bringing Hunter down but about protecting his life of lies, and them asks him, "How can I love a lie?".

Unbeknownst to him, Crystal has already alerted the police. She tells C.J. that his plan was perfect except for the fact that he is not subject to the double jeopardy law because his case was only declared a mistrial. A disgusted Crystal leaves C.J. as the police arrive to arrest him. The last shot is of a defeated, crestfallen C.J. his face coated by the police sirens.


Critical reception[edit]

The movie was a critical and commercial failure. It has a 7% rating on Rotten Tomatoes, based on 28 reviews.[3] The New York Times concluded that Amber Tamblyn looked "thoroughly bored" throughout the proceedings.[4] Variety called the remake "entirely soulless".[5] The Los Angeles Times wrote that "the leads can't lend either spunk or gravitas to what was already a preposterous yarn 50 years ago".[6]


  1. ^ "Beyond a Reasonable Doubt (2009)". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved March 14, 2015.
  2. ^ Frater, Patrick. Trio set for 'Doubt' remake, Variety, February 6, 2008.
  3. ^ "Beyond a Reasonable Doubt". Rotten Tomatoes. 5 February 2009. Retrieved March 14, 2015.
  4. ^ Catsoulis, Jeannette. A District Attorney in the Hot Seat, New York Times, September 11, 2009.
  5. ^ Holland, Jonathan. Beyond a Reasonable Doubt, Variety, September 3, 2009.
  6. ^ Abele, Robert. Reasonable doubts about 'Beyond a Reasonable Doubt', Los Angeles Times, September 11, 2009.

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