September 15, 2009 at 04:00 AM EDT

Beyond a Reasonable Doubt

Current Status
In Season
105 minutes
Wide Release Date
Michael Douglas, Jesse Metcalfe, Orlando Jones, Amber Tamblyn
Peter Hyams
Anchor Bay Entertainment
Peter Hyams
Mystery and Thriller, Drama
We gave it a C

The great film-noir actors, like Robert Mitchum and Sterling Hayden, wore a scowl of hunger that gave them a low-down, predatory glamour. They were men, not boys. But Jesse Metcalfe, who stars in Beyond a Reasonable Doubt, a remake of the 1956 noir classic, has about as much inner darkness as a puppy. Metcalfe, formerly of Desperate Housewives, is swarthy and handsome in a cloying, baby-gigolo way; the only emotion he radiates is eagerness to be liked. He?s certainly plausible as a local TV news reporter looking for a big break. But then he goes after a corrupt district attorney (Michael Douglas) who?s been piling up convictions by planting DNA evidence.

How will Metcalfe expose this scoundrel? By incriminating himself in a homicide, a feat that he accomplishes by collecting fake evidence — a jackknife, athletic shoes matching the imprint left at the scene of the crime — with the eager-beaverness of a kid on a scavenger hunt. Beyond a Reasonable Doubt was written and directed by Peter Hyams (Outland), who brings a touch of neo-’80s, Gee, let’s throw in a car chase! hackery to this pile of contrivances. He squeezes a bit of suspenseful juice out of the old plot, and Douglas makes smarm a chewy pleasure, but this is a noir in search of a hero we can root for because we actually buy what he?s doing. C

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