The last theatrical film that Peter Hyams directed was The Sound of Thunder, a science-fiction action film that looked as though it was never actually completed. Perhaps the studio saw the film and decided that there was no reason to throw good money after bad, and Hyams career seemed to vanish at the same time. Though Beyond a Reasonable Doubt was only limited release and appears more along the lines of a straight-to-video film, it is a vast improvement from Hyams’ special-effects driven films. Unoriginal as the film may be, Beyond a Reasonable Doubt is moderately entertaining and only mildly unbelievable.
Based on the 1956 film noir, the film involves a seemingly decent reporter setting out to expose the corruption of the district attorney by framing himself for murder. Jesse Metcalfe struggles to carry the film as C.J. Nicholas, the daring writer willing to put his own freedom on the line in order to get his story. Michael Douglas barely co-stars as the district attorney in question, and is essentially wasted beyond the credits and the cover of the DVD. Douglas is involved because of the name he has established in the thriller genre, albeit usually involving adultery of some kind.
Lang’s original film somehow seems to remain more exciting, and the best of Hyams’ version of the film seems to draw from the original. Even these stronger points, such as the dialogue, are often lost with the inexperienced actors given the task of the most screen time. The pacing of the film also seems to be a bit off, stumbling into the plot instead of finding a convincing way of bringing us up to speed. The entire endeavor feels somewhat sophomoric.
The DVD includes a commentary track with writer/director/cinematographer Hyams. At least one, if not two, of these jobs should have been delved out to someone else. It isn’t that Hyams does a poor job on any of them, but none are particularly good. I can’t help but wonder what the film might have been like had he focused on just one. Metcalfe also joins the commentary. There is a making-of featurette, as well as a quick featurette about criminal forensics.