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Reasonable Doubt

D: Peter P. Croudins / 91m

Cast: Dominic Cooper, Samuel L. Jackson, Gloria Reuben, Ryan Robbins, Erin Karpluk, Dylan Taylor

Pop quiz: You’re a mega-successful district attorney who’s never lost a case.  After a night out celebrating another win in court, and having had a few drinks, you still drive home because you’re worried your car might be stolen while you take a taxi.  On the way, you hit and injure a man.  Do you: a) call for an ambulance using your mobile phone and stay with the man until it arrives? b) call for an ambulance by using a pay phone and then drive off? or c) carry on driving and don’t look back?  If you answered b, then give yourself a gold star.

This is what hot shot DA Mitch Brockden (Cooper) does, and inevitably it sets in motion a series of events that ends with his wife, Rachel (Karpluk) and newborn child Ella being put in mortal danger.  In between those two events, Mitch gets an uncomfortable case of the guilts.  When Clinton Davis (Jackson) is arrested with the injured man – who is now dead – in his car later that evening, Davis’s assertion that he had found the man and was trying to get him to a hospital rings true with Mitch, even though Davis has tools in his car that match the weapons that caused the man’s other injuries.  When Davis is charged with the man’s murder, it’s Mitch who gets to prosecute him.

For reasons too tiresome and unlikely to reveal here, Mitch’s estranged step-brother Jimmy (Robbins) testifies at the trial that he saw the hit and run.  Davis is freed.  Soon after, another man is found dead with similar injuries.  Mitch now believes Davis did kill the man he knocked down, and when investigating Detective Kanon (Reuben) mentions other incidents that Davis is connected to, Mitch is convinced of Davis’s guilt.  He decides to investigate further, but soon finds that Davis is more dangerous than he expected.

Reasonable Doubt - scene

It’s not that the whole scenario of Reasonable Doubt is far-fetched, or that the motivations of both Mitch and Davis are about as convincing as a politician’s probity, nor even that the level of credibility is undermined continually by Cooper’s lacklustre performance – he demonstrates guilt by looking as if his haemorrhoids are playing up – it’s more that no one stopped to take stock of the movie while it was being made and said, “Hold on, isn’t this just the biggest load of rubbish?”  If someone had, then perhaps we’d all have been spared this poor excuse for a thriller.  As it is, the audience has to endure scene after scene of disjointed dialogue, uncomfortable plot contrivances, woeful acting (Cooper and Reuben are the worst offenders), and such dreadful direction that Peter Howitt’s name is changed in the credits (see above).

It’s always frustrating when movies like this are made.  Reasonable Doubt could have been so much better, but the script by Peter A. Dowling comes across as a hastily assembled first draft.  There is very little internal logic on display, and what there is is so ridiculous that even if you suspended all credulity you’d still be asking yourself if what you were seeing was really happening.  The character of Mitch bears no resemblance to anyone in real life, he makes risky decisions based more on the script’s need for him to do so than any actual self-motivation, and for someone who is so good at his job – so much so that he knows a judge’s decision before he even makes it – he makes one stupid mistake after another, until he ends up arrested for the attempted murder of his step-brother.

And then the movie presents us with it’s most ridiculous and stupid moment: after receiving a call from Davis who tells him he’s going to kill Rachel and Ella, and after he overpowers a police officer, Mitch walks out of the police station without being stopped and while carrying the police officer’s gun!  He doesn’t even try to hide it, just walks out with it in his hand!  It’s when a script offers this as a development, and no one stops to say “Hold on, isn’t this just the biggest load of complete rubbish?” that you know no one really cares.  So why should the audience?

There are – amazingly – worse thrillers out there, but these are mostly low-budget affairs with semi-professional casts and inexperienced directors.  Here, there’s a level of conspicuous ability but it’s all for nought.  Even Jackson phones in his performance, giving us a less intense, less convincing version of his character from Meeting Evil (2012).  You could say that Reasonable Doubt is so bad it’s mesmerising… but that would be a whole other load of rubbish.

Rating: 3/10 – dreadful thriller that insults its own cast as well as the audience; proof if any were needed that some movies should have their productions shut down after day one.