Fast-paced but insipidly dull, Reasonable Doubt is thriller-lite, not quite capable of mounting enough tension to make its brisk 91-minute runtime bearable, and certainly not skilled enough to make any of its twists remotely surprising. It’s never been a prerequisite in Hollywood for a movie to showcase originality, but one of the most irritating things about Reasonable Doubt is that it doesn’t even do well what’s been done before. Aside from its talented cast (all of whom could do much, much better), there’s nothing to make this movie really worth your time.
The plot follows Mitch Brockton (Dominic Cooper), an up-and-coming District Attorney who lives a charmed life. He’s a star in the courtroom, with enough charisma to make any jury hang on his every word, a loving family man with a beautiful wife (Erin Karpluk) and newborn daughter, and even always the most popular guy at the office. Everything’s perfect for Mitch, until he goes out drinking one night and decides to drive home and hits a pedestrian. Fleeing the scene of the crime, he’s riddled with guilt, so much so that he purposefully fumbles the case against Clinton Davis (Samuel L. Jackson), the man accused of killing the pedestrian. However, Mitch soon finds himself drawn into a deadly game of cat-and-mouse when he realizes that Clinton is a vicious serial killer completely aware of Mitch’s involvement in the hit-and-run.
Peter A. Dowling (Flightplan) penned the script, though you wouldn’t have guessed it from how hackneyed, weak and plainly lame the story is. None of the characters are believable in the slightest, and it’s very difficult to elicit even a modicum of sympathy for Mitch. The set-up is also bizarre, with Dowling apparently setting up a whodunit regarding Clinton but then giving away his true face shockingly early on. Mystery is evidently not something in Dowling’s wheelhouse anymore – there’s not a trace of suspense in the film, only a series of increasingly mind-numbing twists. Reasonable Doubt has brevity on its side, but what’s clear pretty quickly is that it doesn’t have enough coherent plot to last an hour, let alone an hour and a half. So, as it barrels on towards its absurdly contrived finale, the film throws even the pretense of logic out the window, focusing instead on abusing as many thriller conventions as possible.
Director Peter P. Croudins (actually Howitt, but evidently too ashamed of the final cut to put his name on it) is unable to mine Dowling’s script for any legitimately tense moments. He has a few interesting shots to offer but very little more, and it shows. Even the film’s wintery setting (actually Manitoba) can’t inject any intrigue into the proceedings.
Cooper fights a losing battle to make Mitch appealing, and he does a decent job of building his character with the limited tools he has available, but the native Brit is miscast in the role of a fast-talking Chicago attorney. His line delivery is sometimes curiously stilted, and he seems lost when it comes to drawing emotion out of a thinly-written character. Meanwhile, Jackson gets a couple of juicy lines but looks incredibly bored throughout his scenes. We know that he can play a convincing crazy, but the dubious motivations behind many of the character’s actions are enough to scuttle every attempt he makes to give Clinton some dramatic depth. In a limited supporting role, Ryan Robbins is far and away the best part of the film as Mitch’s erstwhile brother, carrying his scenes with the screen presence of a seasoned pro. Gloria Reuben, playing a cop on Mitch’s trail, was handed a terribly under-written role, and her character doesn’t make much of an impression at all – a major problem, considering she’s a major part of the final act.
All in all, even a better-than-average cast isn’t enough to prevent Reasonable Doubt from veering over the edge into total inanity in its final act, and the ham-fisted set-up that leads there saps tension at an alarming rate. There’s no reason to waste your time here.
The Blu-Ray package for Reasonabel Doubt is mostly solid. The 1080p transfer is particularly strong in terms of detail, preserving minute aspects of characters’ faces and lending great clarity to most scenes. My only real complaint about the transfer is that it struggles during very dimly lit scenes, with the shadow causing clarity to suffer. Otherwise, video quality is sufficient throughout.
The 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio track prioritizes the film’s aggressive, pulse-pounding score while preserving the crisp nature of dialogue. There’s nothing too exceptional about the audio, though background sound effects are well-placed to create depth, and one scene set in an empty factory implements echo to great effect.
By way of special features, Reasonable Doubt includes:
- Behind the Scenes with Cast and Crew Interviews
- Deleted Scenes
- Extended Interviews with Samuel L. Jackson, Dominic Cooper and Gloria Reuben
The “Behind the Scenes” featurette is very standard-issue stuff, mixing scenes from the film with some interviews with various individuals involved with the film, from actors Samuel L. Jackson and Gloria Reuben to producer Silvio Muraglia. There’s nothing particularly interesting in the featurette, so I’d recommend skipping it.
It’s not that accurate to call what’s included on this disc deleted scenes, as many of them are just slightly extended versions of scenes in the final cut. It’s a very sloppily edited featurette, with one amateurish error actually creating a glitch at one point, and the content’s not terrific. Only an extended conversation with Mitch and his brother (Robbins), and a scene during which the judge presiding over Clinton’s case brings Mitch up on what a terrible attorney he’s being, are worth the watch.
Finally, about thirty minutes of interviews with Jackson, Cooper and Reuben isn’t particularly informative or insightful. With Reasonable Doubt, it seems like what you see is really what you get. None of the actors really articulate interesting thoughts about the film. The only great part of these interviews is watching how intensely uncomfortable Jackson looks to be talking about the movie. It’s painfully clear that he only took the job to work with Cooper, and his resentful glare must have made some poor interviewer somewhere very afraid.
Reasonable Doubt‘s video and audio quality are both solid, though the special features are certainly middling. The film, however, is the real problem. Poorly written, highly generic and guilty of utterly squandering Cooper and Jackson, there’s nothing to like about Reasonable Doubt.
There's no doubt in my mind that this dull, preposterous mess will be gone from my memory by this time tomorrow night.