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Sunday, December 7, 2014

Reasonable Doubt 2014 * * 1/2 Stars

Reasonable DoubtDirector: Peter Howitt
Year: 2014
Rated R
Rating: * * 1/2 Stars
Cast: Samuel L. Jackson, Dominic Cooper

A prominent attorney with a wife and a newborn baby, commits a hit-and-run thereby turning his whole life upside down. That's the premise for Reasonable Doubt, a sometimes ludicrous, glossy crime thriller that has its protagonist swallowed up by the setting of a blistery, Chicago winter. With "Doubt", you have a film with a running time of ninety-one minutes that only harbors about 75% of them in terms of actual screen happenings (you know thing's have gone amok when the closing credits feel like their own mini movie all together). And what seems so promising early on ("Doubt's" first half has a brisk, no-nonsense pace to it), becomes a disappointing hack job from little known director, Peter Howitt.

Shot in Winnipeg, Canada and Chicago, Illinois (the setting is Chicago with Winnipeg actually masquerading as The Windy City) and containing a working title of The Good SamaritanReasonable Doubt looks through the eyes of prosecutor Mitch Brockden (played by Need For Speed's Dominic Cooper). He's a family man, a guy who quote unquote, "never loses a case", and someone who is about to be promoted to district attorney provided that the powers that be never uncover certain things about him (like the fact that he has a stepbrother who is a hardened criminal and newly paroled). When Mitch, after a night of drinking, runs into a streaking pedestrian in the middle of the night, he then covers his tracks by getting his car washed, getting rid of his clothes, and making an anonymous phone call reporting the accident. Oh and it gets better. He may have left the scene but someone else might have tortured said pedestrian just a few minutes earlier. That's where sicko, auto mechanic Clinton Davis (Samuel L. Jackson) comes into play. He's the one that actually gets charged with the hit-and-run, not the incident of felonious assault. And Brockden, to make it look like he was never even involved, ends up coincidentally prosecuting the whole darn case.

From there, I can't tell you much more. It'd be spoiler overkill. I will only say this though: Reasonable Doubt is neither revolutionary nor is it awful. There are a few generic twists/turns early on and on some level, there is adequate suspense. Cut to the last half hour however where the film unfortunately shows its drab, true colors. Cliches come out of the woodwork such as the villain that kills people representing a criminal demographic responsible for taking his own family away from him, the hero who is put into prison by the heavy who frames him and goes on to commit more crimes, and the wife who's just had a baby and wants to keep her hubby totally in check, et cetera, et cetera. Added to all this, the film also ends so abruptly that it feels rushed. I mean, isn't it cheaper to shoot movies in Canada? Can't another fifteen minutes be tacked on to find a resolve? Is the budget for this little seen release that tight? Who knows. I do know this: It appears that when things conclude, the Dominic Cooper character doesn't seem destined to spend any time in jail. Really? He may be the good guy but let's face it, he still killed a man while driving drunk and then he predominately left the scene. I don't care what state you are in or what kind of clout you might have, make no bones about it, you're going to do some serious time. So in truth, it seems recklessly implausible that Cooper's Brockden would even appear to get off scot-free. Oh and another thing, there's a sequence where the mildly innocent Brockden escapes from a county jail by laughably beating up an armed policeman in an interrogation room (with no other set of law enforcement officers even present in the building). Are you serious!? Please.

In the end, Reasonable Doubt has direct-to-video completely stamped on its dented forehead. And while it unfurls at breakneck speed (with minimal plot holes), it still manages to copy off of better crime dramas like 1992's Unlawful Entry, 1996's Primal Fear, 1998's A Simple Plan, and in some respects, 2011's The Lincoln Lawyer. Tack on the Sam Jackson performance which reeks of direct-to-video interludes as well. Along with his screen time in 2012's Meeting Evil, you get saddled with yet another lifeless, I'll-do-it-for-a-paycheck-and-not-read-the-script turn this time around. Don't say I didn't warn ya. Bottom line: As a rental, Reasonable Doubt will get the job done provided you've got some dead end time to kill. Otherwise, there's no real "reason" to see it.

Written by Jesse Burleson

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