Posted: 12/08/2009


Beyond a Reasonable Doubt


by Laura Tucker

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The title of this movie sounded vaguely familiar to me, yet I’d never seen the original from 1956. I walked into it without any preconceived ideas, other than why Michael Douglas was costarring in a legal drama that seemed rather low-budget.

Douglas stars as District Attorney Martin Hunter. He’s never lost a murder case in recent years, and the public would love to make him the governor. He has one major obstacle in this, and that’s C.J. Nicholas (Jesse Metcalfe), a young award-winning investigative journalist. He has noticed that all of these cases won by Hunter have been with circumstantial evidence. He approaches his boss at the station about doing an exposé on this, but gets turned down because of budgetary reasons. While all this is going on, C.J. happens to be starting a relationship with an attractive Asst. D.A., Ella Crystal (Amber Tamblyn), who remains devoted to her boss.

C.J. isn’t one to take no for an answer, and comes up with what he thinks is an ingenious plan. He wants to prove that all this evidence turns up after the murders and decides to plant some evidence after a murder and frame the DA who he assumes won’t be able to resist taking this easy murder case. The problem is he needs a victim and someone to frame as the suspect. He decides to wait until a victim that no one would care about turns up, and decides he’ll have to frame himself as the murderer, and depend on his coworker Corey Finley (Joel Moore) to bring the evidence into the trial at just the right time.

Everything goes as planned as C.J. buys all the evidence after the fact, including the murder weapon and documents it with receipts and video, and gives it all to Corey to hold onto. After that, things don’t go very smoothly and it’s up to Ella to find the evidence to clear C.J. She finds more than she bargained for.

I have to say for having the feel of a low-budget film, it was a great story that kept me into it the whole time. It ended up being quite the thriller, an aspect I wasn’t expecting out of this legal drama. Now having seen it, and reading the description of the 1956 film, I can’t figure out how the other one would end, as they sound definitely different. The original has the protagonist being helped by his father-in-law instead of coworker, and has the female in the story as his wife, instead of the assistant D.A. I’m interested to see how it changes the story in the end, so I might just have to search out the original now.  

Laura Tucker is the webmaster of Reality Shack, and its accompanying Reality Shack Blog, and is a freelance writer providing reviews of movies and television, among other things, at Viewpoints. She is also an Associate Instructor and 2nd dan black belt in tae kwon do with South Elgin Martial Arts. Laura can be reached at

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